The Running of the Bulls


The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain

In regards to everyday life, the city of Pamplona is small and just another city, but it becomes the hub of activity amongst locals and tourists during the weeklong celebration of Los Sanfermines and its frenzied ‘Running of the Bulls.’

The festival begins on July 6 with the ‘txupinazo,’ this is when a rocket is let go in front of the city hall to declare the beginning of the fiesta. The beginning is always marked with boisterous cheers and champagne bottles doing the rounds. It sets the tempo for the coming days filled with fun, frolic and festivity. Running of the bulls is referred to as ‘el encierro’ by the locals and is in fact a significant feature of the festival and is what has attracted so many tourists year after year. Los Sanfermines hass been held every year since 1591, in respect of Pamplona’s son-turned-saint, San Fermín. Roughly around 3AD when Pamplona was a part of the Roman Empire, San Fermín heard about Christianity from French bishop San Saturnino, who had visited the city to spread the message of Christianity. San Fermín found inspiration and made a journey to France to study more and in time become a bishop himself.

Soon he took to spreading the words of Christianity, but he came to be noticed by some local powers in France who opposed his ideas. San Fermín refused to desert his mission and as a result was beheaded and buried. Nevertheless, part of his remains was bought back to his hometown, Pamplona. He became so popular that soon the townspeople began a yearly celebration in his honor. That’s how the fiesta came about. The exact date when the festival transformed into a weeklong party and the inclusion of the running of the bulls is not known.

The popular running of the bulls commences each day at eight in the morning and comprises of a crowd of mostly young men who run in front of the running bulls through an 830-meter stretch of cobbled road, all the way into the city’s bullring. After the Running of the Bulls each day, bullfights follow suit every afternoon, and of course the parades, bands, music, giants and expected revelry are all part of the festival.

The Running of the Bulls is a performance that entails disturbing cattle to anger them, and consequently running in front of the animals that are let loose right through a specified path. The nine day festival at Pamplona is the most popular of such events. In the event of Running of the Bulls, even amateurs are allowed to participate. The origins of this tradition lay in bringing the bulls from the off-site rest zone where they spend the night to the bullring where they would be killed in the evening. Young people would jump in with the raging bulls to show off their boldness. Over the years, there have been instances of people being killed as a result of Running of the Bull, either because of being gored, trampled or from serious injuries that they succumb to. Before the Running of the Bulls commences wooden or iron barricades are put up along the racing path to block off entrances to side streets and alleys. These barricades have narrow gaps so people who participate can exit or enter at ease whereas the bulls are blocked off.

There are times during the Running of the Bulls that the animals are separated and could be disoriented with the chaos around them and could in fact turn and charge towards the crowd instead of following the path. In order to avoid such events, a herd of steers are let go in a second wave to bring together strays. Running of the Bull is thought to be good if the animals follow their path. Their greatest distraction is the crowds and problems are aggravated when members in the crowd wish to touch the running bulls from the stands. The distractions are many and things often get nasty. The running of the bulls ends when the animals are bought to the bullring. The bulls are then guided out and some of the runners remain in the ring. Usually bulls or calves are released back into the ring and the remaining runners tease and goad the bulls for the amusement of the crowd.

Prior to the start of the Running of the Bulls, runners sing a prayer to a statue of Saint Fermin and ask him for protection. They traditional garb is a white shirt and trousers with a red waistband and neckerchief. They hold the day's newspaper rolled in one hand in order to draw the bulls' attention away from them if need be. The Running of the Bulls is criticized by many because of the slaughter of animals that takes place each day and the pain and misery that’s caused during the running because they’re not used to running on cobbled paths. There’s’ arguments that prior to the run and bullfights, these animals are often drugged making them disoriented and incapable of protecting themselves from the swords of the experienced bull fighters.

A famous public denouncement of the Running of the Bulls is carried out at the Running of the Nudes event on the streets of Pamplona prior to the Running of the Bulls. This event attracts adequate media attention is intended at reaching out to international tourists who support the event. It is meant to educate people about the animal’s plight before and during the event. 

The Running of the Bulls

The Running of the Bulls

The Running of the Bulls

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