Bull fighting is very closely associated with Spain and can
trace its origins back to 711 A.D. This is when the first bullfight took place
in celebration for the crowning of King Alfonso VIII. It is very popular in Spain
with several thousand Spaniards flocking to their local bull-ring each week.
It is said that the total number of people watching bullfights in Spain reaches
one million every year.
Bullfighting was originally a sport for the aristocracy and took place on horseback.
King Felipe V took exception to the sport however and banned the aristocracy
from taking part, believing it to be a bad example to the public. After the ban
commoners accepted the sport as their own and, since they could not afford horses,
developed the practice of dodging the bulls on foot, unarmed. This transformation
occurred around 1724.
So what happens during a bullfight?:
Firstly the bull is let into the ring. Then, the top bullfighter called the Matador,
watches his chief assistant wave a bright yellow and magenta cape in front of
the bull to make it charge. He watches this in order to determine the bull's
qualities and mood, before taking over himself.
Then a trumpet is sounded and several fighters called Picadores weaken the bull
by placing spears into it. This takes around 10 minutes.
Another trumpet is sounded and the Matador now removes his black winged hat and
dedicates the death of the bull to the president or the crowd before beginning
The faena which is the most beautiful and skillful section of the fight and where
the matador must prove his courage and artistry. The faena consists of a running
at the Matador carrying a muleta. This is a piece of thick crimson cloth draped
over a short stick, which can be held in either the left hand or draped over
the espada, the killing sword, which is always held in the right hand. Usually
the muleta, in left or right hand, is first held in front of the matador to make
the bull charge and is then swung across and away from the matador's body hopefully
taking the bull with it.
This is a show, basically a dance with death - one wrong move and the Matador
could become impaled on the horns of the bull. It is the Matador's job to make
this dance dramatic and enjoyable for the audience.
The faena continues until the Matador has demonstrated his superiority over the
bull. Once this is achieved the bull is ready to be killed.
The matador stands some ten feet from the bull, keeping the bull fixated on the
muleta and aims the espada between the shoulder blades. The matador attacks pushing
the espada over the horns and deep between the shoulder blades. If the sword
goes in to the hilt it is an estocada but if it hits bone it is a pinchazo or
media-estocada. An estocada usually results in the bull dropping immediately
to its knees and dying, but if the bull fails to die the matador may take the
descabello (a sword with a short cross piece at the end) which he stabs into
the bull's neck severing the spinal cord. The fight is over.
The matador may be awarded trophies by the president, according to his skill
in working with the bull, which can be one or two ears from the bull, the tail
and the hoof. The crowd will often encourage the president to award the trophies
by waving white hankerchiefs, and this waving continues after the trophies have
been awarded in an attempt to get the matador to throw his trophies into the
crowd. The crowd in return hurls flowers which are collected by the matador's