Running Of The Bulls

Jul 8, 2012 By Deepa Gopal
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Yes, it is that time of the year again when millions descend on the Spanish city of Pamplona. The thrill and excitement of being chased by excited bulls down narrow streets draws locals and visitors from many countries to Spain's most famous summer festival!

Runners wearing traditional white clothing and red kerchiefs around their necks scrambled and tripped over each other as they tried to outrun the powerful fighting bulls. The sport is not without its dangers and that is exactly what happened on the first day of the festival this year when an elderly man was gored in his leg and six injured in the stampede. Lets take a look at the festival and questions surrounding it.

The San Fermin Festival

Every July, Pamplona explodes to life for the nine-day San Fermin festival, celebrating the region’s patron or protector, Saint Fermin. The event is marked by numerous traditional customs including fireworks, singing and dancing, and a parade with a statue of the saint. But the most famous or perhaps infamous event is the running of the bulls, which has been a part of the festival since 1591.

The running of the bulls involves hundreds of people running in front of six bulls and six steers (male cows) down an 825-meter or half-mile stretch of narrow streets in the old town of Pamplona. The run, which lasts a total of just three minutes, can be very thrilling and extremely dangerous at the same time, as both humans and animals try to outrun each other. The race ends at Pamplona's bullring, where the bulls come face-to-face with “matadors” or bullfighters in a spectacular show of artistry and athleticism, usually resulting in their death.

Races take place every day at 8 am from the start of the week-long festival which will conclude on July 14 this year. 

Should the tradition continue?

It is not known how this unusual tradition came to be, and until the early 1900s, the Pamplona bull run was largely a local event. One theory states that in the 13th century, farmers would let their cattle loose as they transported them to the market to be sold. Over time, people started racing ahead of the cattle, trying to outrun them! It was not until Ernest Hemingway, the famous American author, who wrote about it in his novel "The Sun Also Rises", that people from all over the world started coming to this small town. 

There are questions about whether this festival should continue. Spain's Catalonia region has already banned bull-fighting. Animal lovers from PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) gather every year before the start of the festival to protest the unethical treatment of animals. However, for the many thrill-seekers and those who believe that the centuries-old tradition should be preserved, Pamplona's bull run continues.