Bullfighting in Spain


Spring brings more to Spain than the lovely rainbow colored fields of wild flowers, it also marks the beginning of bullfighting season. The Corrida de Toros make their way throughout Spain from March until October.

Bullfighting in Spain is one of the best known “sports”

Bullfighting is certainly one of the best known, although, at the same time most controversial Spanish customs. For its fans bullfighting is, of course, an art rather than a sport.
The aesthetic of bullfighting is based on the interaction of man and beast, on artistic impression and command. It is an ancient tradition, dating back to prehistoric times that has survived in this country and is still going strong.

Many supporters of bullfighting regard it as a deeply ingrained integral part of their national culture.

The fights that attract most spectators are the ones held during the town’s annual fair, named Ferias Taurinas and also it is combined in celebration of the town patron saint.

The larger ferias in Madrid, Seville and all throughout Andalucia are the more popular ferias and bullfights for Spaniards and visitors alike to visit.

The atmosphere is celebratory and visitors will have the chance to experience Spain at its best.

The origins of bullfighting have been influenced and been recorded historically in many different countries and cultures.

Cave paintings of primitive bullfighting have been found throughout Spain, dating back to pre-history.

Centureis ago it evolved into being practiced by nobility as a substitute and preparation of war, like hunting and jousting.

Religious festivities and royal weddings were celebrated by fights in the local plaza, where noblemen would ride competing for royal favor and the townspeople enjoyed the excitement.

As bullfighting developed, men on foot started using capes to aid the horsemen in positioning the bulls.

This type of fighting drew more attention from the crowds, thus the modern corrida, or fight, started to take form.

Bullfighting in Spain originated in the early 17th century

In the 18th century, the Spanish introduced the practice of fighting on foot, Francisco Romero generally being regarded as having been the first to do this in about 1726.
Romero is credited with being the pioneer of modern bullfighting, as we know it and as it is practiced today by setting the rules and guidelines of the Corrida de Toros.

This new style prompted the construction of dedicated bullrings. The first modern bullring in all of Europe was built in Andalucia, in Ronda, the hometown of Francisco Romero.

It still stands today as the most prestigious (but not the largest) Plaza de Toros in all of Spain due to its historical significance.

The bullfight is above all about the demonstration of style and courage by the matadors, also known as toreros.

A matador’s suit, “traje de luz” (suit of lights), is hand-made, taking six people a month to create and usually costs over 3,000 euros.

The most popular colors are red, black, green, blue and white and are always decorated in gold.

Yellow is never worn, even by spectators as it is considered to be unlucky and toreros are highly superstitious.

The matador, representing mankind and dressed for his date with mortality in the “traje de luz” mocks and sentences the bull to death upon his entrance into the ring.

Bullfighting is a ritual, one that requires a sacrifice, a sacrifice to the death. While there is usually no doubt about the outcome, the bull is not viewed as a sacrificial victim.

It is, instead, seen by the audience as a worthy adversary, deserving of respect in its own right.

Bulls learn fast and their capacity to do so should never be underestimated. Indeed, a bullfight may be viewed as a race against time for the matador, who must display his bullfighting skills before the animal learns what is going on.

If a matador is particularly poor, the audience may shift its support to the bull and cheer it on instead.

A hapless matador may find himself being pelted with seat cushions as he makes his exit.

The Corrida de Toros is a ceremony that is carried out in carefully prearranged steps, as called for by tradition and the rules, each stage with its own name, each participant and movement with its own name and varying levels of expectation (by the audience and judges) for all aspects of the performance.

The fans and bullfighting aficionados in the crowd know these by heart, loud bursts of applause and cheers of “Ole Ole” signal the matador that he is proving his skill and artistry to the highest degree.

Each matador has six assistants: two picadores (lancers) mounted on a heavily padded horse usually of large stature, three banderilleros (flagmen), and a mozo de espada (sword servant).

Collectively they comprise a cuadrilla or team of bullfighters.

The bull is encouraged by the two picadores to attack the horse which is protected by its padding. The way the bull charges the horse provides important clues to the matador on its bravery and persistence.


The picador stabs a mound of muscle on the bull’s neck. If the picador does his job well, the bull will hold its head and horns lower during the following stages of the fight.

This makes him slightly less dangerous enabling the matador to get even closer to the bull, thus proving his bravery. It is the first major test of the bull’s bravery, and even more importantly, most bulls’ behaviour changes dramatically (for better or worse) after the lance. It is therefore viewed by most as a crucial and mandatory step of the corrida.

The matador has now observed and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of his adversary and now enters the arena and prepares to fulfill his requirements while keeping a level head, keeping in mind the final goal……the killing of the bull.

He carries a small red muleta (cape) in one hand and a sword in the other. The signature red colour of the cape is actually only a matter of tradition, as bulls are actually colour blind, only attacking upon sight of movement.

There are a number of distinct styles of pass, each with its own name.

The fundamental pass with the muleta is the “natural,” traditionally meaning a left-handed pass with the muleta without the aid of the sword to prop it up.

After the bull has been worn down by being pierced above the neck with short stake-like lances and the matador has performed the mandatory movements with the muleta, he proceeds to the actual killing of the bull with his sword.

The act of thrusting the estoca (sword) is called an estocada. A clumsy estocada that fails to give a “quick and clean death” will often raise loud protests from the crowd and may ruin the whole performance.

Each matador is to kill two bulls per fight, each of which is at least four years old and weighs up to about 600 kg (with a minimum weight limit of 460 kg for the bullrings of the first degree).

Bulls are raised on the open range by specialist breeding estates called ganaderías. Each bull is recorded meticulously with its name, weight, and age to profile the estate, which keeps their pedigree.

The bull enters the arena with a rosette on its back bearing the colours of the estate it belongs to.

A fighting bull is never used in the ring twice, because they learn from experience, and the entire strategy of the matador is based on the assumption that the bull has not learned how to defend itself from previous experience.

Once the bull has been killed the ritual has been carried out, the bull is dead and the matador is triumphant.

Man has defeated death, today he is immortal.

Tomorrow he will again face his nemesis and may possibly lose his life or be horribly injured.

But man, in his complex relationship with the fear of death but also his willingness to risk it, seeks to vanquish death.

He does that by physically overcoming death; and doing so in the arena, he seeks immortality.

It is not surprising that the practice of bullfighting generates heated controversy for many in Spain and other areas of the world.

There is heated contention between supporters of bullfighting who claim it is a long held and culturally important tradition and animal rights groups who oppose bullfighting due to the suffering of the bull.

This is an age old debate and, most likely, will continue to be so for ages to come.

many view bullfighting in spain to be cruel, others regard it as tradition

It is true that attending a bullfight in Spain is not for the faint of heart and that the concept of it is foreign to many of us.

Yet, it has captured the attention of many, reversing the negative opinions previously held. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles came to be some of the most passionate advocates of the art of bullfighting and lovers of Spanish culture.

This was clearly expressed in Hemmingways, “Death in the Afternoon”, dedicated to the legacy and beauty of bullfighting.

Sitting in the majestic arenas amongst the locals, celebrities and royalty cheering loudly, one cannot help but get caught up in the moment and history of this ancient tradition.


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