Since we launched the Girls Running With Bulls website, the focus has been on the act of encierro. While that is our main goal, some readers may not be aware what comes next for the bulls after they shoot out of the corral gates.
The bull run is not for the single purpose of having hundreds of corredors sprinting alongside them and that’s the conclusion.
During San Fermin in Pamplona or sometimes prior to – six bulls are selected for bullfights (corrida) that are staged at Plaza de Toros at 6:30 pm each night.
A bull that ran earlier in the day will spar with a matador until that bull is longer standing or breathing. Although throughout Spain’s bullfighting history, some matadors met their end at the end of a horn. Certainly with any sport rooted in another’s culture, there is always a beginning.
Bullfighting was first introduced by the Romans, but it was the Moors who refined it after conquering Andalusia in AD 711. The Roman version was considered formless and unrefined. Ritual feast days soon became connected to events when the Moors, mounted on trained horses, faced the bulls and killed them.
Men on foot aided the horsemen by using a cape to place the bulls in position. Eventually, these men drew more attention from the crowd and progressed until modern bullfighting was formed. By 1726, Francisco Romero of Ronda, introduced the sword (the estoque) and the muleta ( small, more easily wielded cape implemented in the last part of the fight).
The legendary Spanish bullfighter, Juan Belmonte, shaped the sport further by standing erect, freezing his stance, while being mere inches from the bull. Previous matadors purposefully avoided the bull’s horns by approaching from a safe distance.
What Happens During a Bullfight?
For a traditional corrida de toros (running of the bulls), three matadores each faces two bulls. Each bull is between four and six years old and weighs no less than 1,000 pounds. Each matador (also called torero in Spanish) has six assistants: two picadores (lancers on horseback), three banderilleros (also toreros, but carry two small spears and no cape, or capote in Spanish), and a sword page. Together, they are called a cuadrilla (entourage..)
Adam’s account is detailed, describing how the picadores prepare the bulls with lances, the role of the banderilleros (stab the bull in the shoulders with two sharp, barbed sticks) and finally what occurs when the matador re-emerges:
The final stage, or the tercio de muerte (the third of death), begins when the matador re-enters the ring with a small red cape and sword. There is a common misconception about the color of the cape angering and drawing the bull’s attention, because bulls, in fact, are colorblind. It is thought the reason the cape is red is to mask the bull’s blood, but today it is matter of tradition. The matador uses his cape in a series of passes with the bull for two reasons: to wear it down and to produce a display of faena (graceful movements). After watching Flamenco dancing a couple nights before, I could see the matador moving in a very similar style. It appears as if he is gracefully dancing with the bull, sometimes brushing against its side as it passes.
After wearing the bull down enough and completing the faena, the matador will maneuver the bull into a position where he can strike the deadly blow. He will aim between the bull’s shoulder blades in order to strike the bull’s heart.
His accompanying photographs are graphic, so be aware before you read his full post.
Aficionados of bullfighting argue that it’s an integral piece of Spanish culture, while younger generations, Spanish and non-Spanish alike, view the sport as cruel and barbaric. In 2010, bullfighting was banned in the Catalonia region.
Whatever your feelings might be on the sport of bullfighting, it’s always important to be informed of both sides.
Below is some reading material that you might find useful.
Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway.
On Bullfighting by A.L. Kennedy
Bullfight by Gary Marvin (an anthropologist who went to Spain to understand the cultural basis for bullfighting).
The Death of Manolete by Barnaby Conrad.
The Dangerous Summer by Ernest Hemingway.
Significance of Bullfighting in Spain, Barcelona Reporter.
www.earthlings.com (a documentary featuring the bull run).
Running of the Nudes (animal rights demonstration that takes place two days before the opening of San Fermin).
Bullfighting: A Troubled History by Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier.
For a Bullfighting-Free Europe (video included).
Photo: Rick Eh