The running of the bulls in Spain

The running of the bulls is a Spanish tradition that has been around for a long time, the first documented run being in the 13th century. Although this extreme activity is also practiced in Portugal and Mexico, Spain is the country where El Encierro is the most popular. In particular, the city of Pamplona has a world famous festival, lasting a week, which people from all over the globe come to see and even take part in. For adventure seekers, Spain is an important landmark on the world map, bull running being one of the most extreme, exciting events that one could see. It cannot be argued that running in a crowd of hundreds of people and avoid being hit by several fierce, agitated bulls provides its share of exhilarating sensations. However, animal protestation organizations strongly oppose this form of extreme sport and say it is vicious, and should be banned, together with bullfighting. Some interest still remains around the tradition, and locals do not seem willing to give up and activity that is already an integrated part of their culture.

When did it all begin? The running of the bulls in Spain is said to have its origins somewhere around the 1300s, when people used to take bulls from their enclosure to the place where they had to be killed or sold. To speed up the process, men started to rush the animals, chase them, causing either fear or agitation. Gradually, this became a pastime activity, and people started to organize competitions where they were racing in front of the bulls and had to reach first their pens. The trend caught on and has remained popular up to the present day, when the Pamplona festival is held in the honour of San Fermin. Even though there is no denying that the running of the bulls involves a lot of danger, anyone older than 18 is allowed to take part in it, with no training or experience required.

At present, the running of the bulls in Pamplona does not have the same purpose it once served and it is done simply for fun. The race starts early in the morning, in the Plaza of Santo Domingo, and at 8 am, a rocket announces that the bulls are released. What happens next is somewhat chaotic. Hundreds of people wearing red scarves start running, being chased by six raging bulls. The bravest of participants, called mozos, stay on purpose closer to the bulls, so as to get more adrenaline. The whole race is not long, approximately four minutes and the length of the track is around 800m. That many not sound like a lot, but a lot can happen during the race. The organizers try to take some basic precautions and install wooden fences to delimitate the track and allow runners to slip through them if they feel that things are getting too intense. Lately, local authorities decided to apply anti-slip paint on the road, so as to reduce the number of accidents.

The popularity of bull running in Spain has been questioned a lot, though. Activists and animal lovers remonstrate against the treatment of the bulls and demand that this tradition be banned at once. In addition, the sport is not exactly safe. Ever since the event started being recorded, in Pamplona alone there have been around 15 deaths caused by goring, not to mention that annually hundreds of people suffer contusions and fractures from falling.

Comments are closed.