Furnas do Cavalum

Furnas do Cavalão

Useful Information

Location: Machico
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: Speleologylava tube
Light: bring torch
Guided tours:
Bibliography: P. Relvas, V. Monteiro (1987): Grutas do Cavalum (Machico - Madeira), Algarocho, Boletim interno da Sociedade Portuguesa de Espeleologia, #9, 1987, pp 5-8.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Furnas do Cavalum are named after a local legend about a devil called Cavalum, who was imprioned in the cave. The lava tube is of great importance and has numerous specialties, and at the moment the process of the creation of a natural reserve is on its way. It is of geologic relevance, as it allows a view on the volcanic history of the now inactive island of Madeira. It is also of biologic importance with several troglobiont living in the cave, including crustaceans, spiders and flies. Fourteen invertebrates live in this tubes, three of them are endemic on Madeira, one of them exists only in this cave. But it is also part of the cultural heritage of the islanders, as numerous legends are told about the cave. And despite the stories about the devil, the cave was used as a refuge by the locals during violent uprises like the revolução da farinha.

The local people tell the legend, that the Furnas do Cavalum are home to a sort of monster. The Cavalum is a devil in the shape of horse, with bat wings and fire coming out of his nose. On stormy days it is possible to hear the screams and the rumble when he kicks out, because he is so annoyed to be imprisoned in this cave.

The story how he got imprisoned goes like this: In times, when Cavalum was still free, he went to a church and knocked on the door, in order to speak to God. God asked what he wanted, and he responded: "I want to consider a challenge. I will destroy this church and all people living in the village, I want to see if you are able to hinder me." And God answered him, that he did not like this kind of jokes.

Cavalum thought, "So I told you...", and called the the wind and the clouds to form a huge storm to destroy all the people. He stood on a high cliff and whinnied content, enjoying the the misery of the people. At that time God was sitting quiescent at his fireplace, not believing Cavalum would really do what he said. But he continued, and the houses and the fields were destroyed.

God was irritated, as he had not taken it serious, but decided to stop this immediately. He called the sun, which came with all its force and moved away the clouds, the wind, the thunder, and the lightning. The sky was blue again, and the people became happy. But now God decided to imprison Cavalum in a cave, which was thus called Furnas do Cavalum. Cavalum is imprisoned until today, and at every storm it is possible to hear his anger and despair about being imprisioned.

Local legend.

One time a child entered the cave through one of the many openings of the cave. It went in at a place Moinho da Serra, but it left at Água de Pena. Some say this is the reason why the cave is called Furnas do Cavalum, because Cavalum is another word for Devil, and the Devil is the only one who will not get lost in this labyrinth.

Local legend.