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Subject: Animal sacrifice, Taurobolium
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"bull fighting" redirects here. For the Taiwanese TV series, see Bull Fighting (TV series). For the rodeo performer, see bullfighter (rodeo).

Bullfighting ( as there are no elements of competition in the proceedings. In Portugal, it is illegal to kill a bull in the arena, so it is removed and either professionally killed or treated and released into its owners' (ganadero) fields.

The bullfight, as it is practiced today, involves professional toreros (of which the most senior is called a matador) who execute various formal moves which can be interpreted and innovated according to the bullfighter's style or school. It has been alleged that toreros seek to elicit inspiration and art from their work and an emotional connection with the crowd transmitted through the bull. Such maneuvers are performed at close range, after the bull has first been weakened and tired by lances and short spears with barbs which are thrust into and then hang from the bull. The close proximity places the bullfighter at some risk of being gored or trampled by the weakened bull. After the bull has been hooked multiple times behind the shoulder by other matadors in the arena, the bullfight usually concludes with the killing of the bull by a single sword thrust, which is called the estocada. In Portugal, the finale consists of a tradition called the pega, where men (forcados) try to grab and hold the bull by its horns when it runs at them.

Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition and a fully developed art form on par with painting, dancing and music, whilst critics hold that it is a blood sport perpetrated as a cowardly act resulting in the suffering of bulls and horses.

There are many historic fighting venues in the Iberian Peninsula, France and Hispanic America. The largest venue of its kind is the Plaza México in central Mexico City, which seats 48,000 people,[4] and the oldest is the La Maestranza in Seville, Spain, which was first used for bullfighting in 1765.[5]

Forms of non-lethal bullfighting also appear outside the Iberian and Francophone world, including the Tamil Nadu practise of jallikattu; and the Portuguese-influenced mchezo wa ngombe is also practiced on the Tanzanian islands of Pemba and Zanzibar. Types of bullfighting which involve bulls fighting other bulls, rather than humans, are found in the Balkans, Turkey, the Persian Gulf, Bangladesh, Japan, Peru and Korea. In many parts of the Western United States, various rodeo events like calf roping and bull riding were influenced by the Spanish bullfighting.


Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice. The first recorded Bull fight may be the Epic of Gilgamesh which describes a scene in which Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought and killed the Bull of Heaven (The Bull seemed indestructible, for hours they fought, till Gilgamesh dancing in front of the Bull, lured it with his tunic and bright weapons, and Enkidu thrust his sword, deep into the Bull's neck, and killed it).[6] The killing of the sacred bull (tauroctony) is the essential central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. The oldest representation of what seems to be a man facing a bull is on the Celtiberian tombstone from Clunia and the cave painting "El toro de hachos", both found in Spain.[7][8]

Bullfighting is often linked to Rome, where many human-versus-animal events were held. There are also theories that it was introduced into Hispania by the Emperor Claudius, as a substitute for gladiators, when he instituted a short-lived ban on gladiatorial combat. The latter theory was supported by Robert Graves (picadors are the remnants of the warriors who wielded the javelin, but their role in the contest is now a minor one limited to "preparing" the bull for the matador.) Bullfighting spread from Spain to its Central and South American colonies, and to France in the 19th century, where it developed into a distinctive form in its own right.

Religious festivities and royal weddings were celebrated by fights in the local plaza, where noblemen would ride competing for royal favor, and the populace enjoyed the excitement. The Spanish introduced the practice of fighting on foot around 1726. Francisco Romero is generally regarded as having been the first to do this.

This type of fighting drew more attention from the crowds. Thus the modern corrida, or fight, began to take form, as riding noblemen were substituted by commoners on foot. This new style prompted the construction of dedicated bullrings, initially square, like the Plaza de Armas, and later round, to discourage the cornering of the action. The modern style of Spanish bullfighting is credited to Juan Belmonte, generally considered the greatest matador of all time. Belmonte introduced a daring and revolutionary style, in which he stayed within a few inches of the bull throughout the fight. Although extremely dangerous (Belmonte himself was gored on many occasions), his style is still seen by most matadors as the ideal to be emulated. Today, bullfighting remains similar to the way it was in 1726, when Francisco Romero, from Ronda, Spain, used the estoque, a sword, to kill the bull, and the muleta, a small cape used in the last stage of the fight.


Originally, at least five distinct regional styles of bullfighting were practised in southwestern Europe: Andalusia, AragonNavarre, Alentejo, Camargue, Aquitaine. Over time, these have evolved more or less into standardized national forms mentioned below. The "classic" style of bullfight, in which the bull is killed, is the form practiced in Spain and many Latin American countries.


Spanish-style bullfighting is called corrida de toros (literally "running of bulls") or la fiesta ("the festival"). In the traditional corrida, three matadores, each fight two bulls, each of which is between four and six years old and weighs no less than 460 kg (1,014 lb)[9] Each matador has six assistants—two picadores ("lancers on horseback") mounted on horseback, three banderilleros – who along with the matadors are collectively known as toreros ("bullfighters") – and a mozo de espadas ("sword page"). Collectively they comprise a cuadrilla ("entourage"). The word "matador" is only used in English, whereas in Spanish the more general "torero" is used and only when needed to distinguish the full title "matador de toros" is used.

File:Juan Bautista corrida goyesque Feria du Riz Arles 2010.ogg File:José Arévalo en 2009 à Beaucaire.ogg The modern corrida is highly ritualized, with three distinct stages or tercios ("thirds"), the start of each being announced by a bugle sound. The participants first enter the arena in a parade, called the paseíllo, to salute the presiding dignitary, accompanied by band music. Torero costumes are inspired by 17th century Andalusian clothing, and matadores are easily distinguished by the gold of their traje de luces ("suit of lights") as opposed to the lesser banderilleros who are also called toreros de plata ("bullfighters of silver"). Next, the bull enters the ring to be tested for ferocity by the matador and banderilleros with the magenta and gold capote ("cape"). This is the first stage, the tercio de varas ("the lancing third"), and the matador first confronts the bull with the capote, performing a series of passes and observing the behavior and quirks of the bull.

Next, a picador enters the arena on horseback armed with a vara ("lance"). To protect the horse from the bull's horns, the horse is surrounded by a protective, padded covering called "peto". Prior to 1930, the horse did not wear any protection, and the bull would usually disembowel the horse during this stage. Until this change was instituted, the number of horses killed during a fight was higher than the number of bulls killed.[10]

At this point, the picador stabs just behind the morrillo, a mound of muscle on the fighting bull's neck, weakening the neck muscles and leading to the animal's first loss of blood. The manner in which the bull charges the horse provides important clues to the matador about which side the bull favors. If the picador is successful, the bull will hold its head and horns slightly lower during the following stages of the fight. This ultimately enables the matador to perform the killing thrust later in the performance. The encounter with the picador often fundamentally changes the behaviour of a bull; distracted and unengaging bulls will become more focused and stay on a single target instead of charging at everything that moves.

In the next stage, the tercio de banderillas ("the third of banderillas"), each of the three banderilleros attempts to plant two banderillas, sharp barbed sticks into the bull's shoulders. These anger and agitate, but further weaken, the bull which has been tired by his attacks on the horse and the damage he has taken from the lance. Sometimes a matador will place his own banderillas. If so, he usually embellishes this part of his performance and employ more varied manoeuvres than the standard "al cuarteo" method usually used by banderilleros as part of a matador's cuadrilla.

In the final stage, the tercio de muerte ("the third of death"), the matador re-enters the ring alone with a small red cape, or muleta, and a sword. It is a common misconception that the color red is supposed to anger the bull, because bulls, in fact, are colorblind.[11][12] The cape is thought to be red to mask the bull's blood, although this is now also a matter of tradition. The matador uses his cape to attract the bull in a series of passes which serve the dual purpose of wearing the animal down for the kill and producing the ostensible beautiful display or faena. He may also demonstrate his domination over the bull by caping and bringing it especially close to his body. The faena is the entire performance with the cape (muleta) and it is usually broken down into tandas, or "series", of passes. The series (tanda) ends with a final series of passes in which the matador, using the cape, attempts to maneuver the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. The sword is called "estoque" and the act of thrusting the sword is called an estocada. The sword used by the matador during the initial series while he is trying to entertain the crowd is called the fake sword (estoque simulado). This fake sword is made out of wood or aluminum,in contrast to the estoque de verdad (real sword), which is made out of steel and is used for the actual final kill with the thrust through the bull's heart. The fake sword (estoque simulado) is lighter and therefore much easier to handle. However, at the end of the tercio de muerte, when the matador has finished his series of passes (faena) for the crowd's entertainment, the matador will change his fake sword (estoque simulado) for the real steel sword (estoque de verdad) to perform the estocada and kill the bull with a pierce through the heart, if all goes according to plan. Many times the bull doesn't get pierced through the heart during the estocada initially and repeated efforts must be made to finally bring the bull down and end his life.

If the matador has performed particularly well, the crowd may petition the president to award the matador an ear of the bull by waving white handkerchiefs. If his performance was exceptional, he will award two ears, and in certain more rural rings, a tail can still be awarded. Very rarely, if the public or the matador believe that the bull has fought extremely bravely, the event's president may be petitioned to grant the bull a pardon (indulto) and if it is granted, the bull's life is spared; and it is allowed to leave the ring alive and return to the ranch from where it came. Then the bull becomes a stud bull for the rest of its life.


Recortes, a style of bullfighting practiced in Navarre, La Rioja, North of Castile and Valencia, has been far less popular than the traditional corridas. There has been a recent resurgence of recortes in Spain where they are sometimes shown on TV.

This style was common in the early 19th century. Etchings by painter Francisco de Goya depict these events.

Recortes claims to differ from a corrida in the following ways:

  • The bull is not physically injured. Drawing blood is rare and the bull returns to his pen at the end of the performance.
  • The men are dressed in common street clothes and not in traditional bullfighting dress.
  • Acrobatics are performed without the use of capes or other props. Performers attempt to evade the bull solely through the swiftness of their movements.
  • Rituals are less strict so the men have freedom to perform stunts as they please.
  • Men work in teams but with less role distinction than in a corrida.
  • Teams compete for points awarded by a jury.

Since horses are not used, and performers are not professionals, recortes are less costly to produce.

Comic bullfighting

Comical spectacles based on bullfighting, called espectáculos cómico-taurinos or charlotadas, are still popular in Spain and Mexico, with troupes like El empastre or El bombero torero.[13]


Main article: Running of the Bulls

An encierro or running of the bulls is an activity related to bullfighting in which people run in front of a small group of bulls that have been let loose, on a course of a sectioned-off subset of a town's streets.

Toro embolado

Main article: Toro embolado

A toro embolado (in Spanish), bou embolat (in Catalan), roughly meaning bull with balls, is a festive activity, typical of many towns in Spain (mainly in the Valencian community and Southern Catalonia), in which a bull that has balls of flammable material attached to its horns, which are set on fire, is set free in the streets at night, and participants dodge the bull when it comes close. It can be considered a variant of an encierro (correbous in Catalan). This activity is held in a number of Spanish towns during their local festivals. In recent years, animal welfare activists have attempted to stop this practise from happening due to the cruelty to the animal.[14][15][16][17]


Most Portuguese bullfights are held in two phases: the spectacle of the cavaleiro, and the pega. In the cavaleiro, a horseman on a Portuguese Lusitano horse (specially trained for the fights) fights the bull from horseback. The purpose of this fight is to stab three or four bandeiras (small javelins) into the back of the bull.

In the second stage, called the pega ("holding"), the forcados, a group of eight men, challenge the bull directly without any protection or weapon of defence. The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a pega de cara or pega de caras (face grab). The front man secures the animal's head and is quickly aided by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until he is subdued.[18] Forcados are dressed in a traditional costume of damask or velvet, with long knitted hats as worn by the campinos (bull headers) from Ribatejo.

The bull is not killed in the ring and, at the end of the corrida, leading oxen are let into the arena and two campinos on foot herd the bull among them back to its pen. The bull is usually killed, away from the audience's sight, by a professional butcher. It can happen that some bulls, after an exceptional performance, are healed, released to pasture until their end days and used for breeding.

In the Portuguese Azores islands, there is a form of bullfighting called tourada à corda, in which a bull is led on a rope along a street, while players taunt and dodge the bull, who is not killed during or after the fight, but returned to pasture and used in later events.


Since the 19th century, Spanish-style corridas have been increasingly popular in Southern France where they enjoy legal protection in areas where there is an uninterrupted tradition of such bull fights, particularly during holidays such as Whitsun or Easter. Among France's most important venues for bullfighting are the ancient Roman arenas of Nîmes and Arles, although there are bull rings across the South from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coasts. The French version of bullfighting is unique in that the bulls have a choice not to fight.

A more indigenous genre of bullfighting is widely common in the Provence and Languedoc areas, and is known alternately as "course libre" or "course camarguaise". This is a bloodless spectacle (for the bulls) in which the objective is to snatch a rosette from the head of a young bull. The participants, or raseteurs, begin training in their early teens against young bulls from the Camargue region of Provence before graduating to regular contests held principally in Arles and Nîmes but also in other Provençal and Languedoc towns and villages. Before the course, an encierro—a "running" of the bulls in the streets—takes place, in which young men compete to outrun the charging bulls. The course itself takes place in a small (often portable) arena erected in a town square. For a period of about 15–20 minutes, the raseteurs compete to snatch rosettes (cocarde) tied between the bulls' horns. They do not take the rosette with their bare hands but with a claw-shaped metal instrument called a raset or crochet (hook) in their hands, hence their name. Afterwards, the bulls are herded back to their pen by gardians (Camarguais cowboys) in a bandido, amidst a great deal of ceremony. The stars of these spectacles are the bulls, who get top billing and stand to gain fame and statues in their honor, and lucrative product endorsement contracts.[19]

Another type of French 'bullfighting' is the "course landaise", in which cows are used instead of bulls. This is a competition between teams named cuadrillas, which belong to certain breeding estates. A cuadrilla is made up of a teneur de corde, an entraîneur, a sauteur, and six écarteurs. The cows are brought to the arena in crates and then taken out in order. The teneur de corde controls the dangling rope attached to the cow's horns and the entraîneur positions the cow to face and attack the player. The écarteurs will try, at the last possible moment, to dodge around the cow and the sauteur will leap over it. Each team aims to complete a set of at least one hundred dodges and eight leaps. This is the main scheme of the "classic" form, the course landaise formelle. However, different rules may be applied in some competitions. For example, competitions for Coupe Jeannot Lafittau are arranged with cows without ropes.

At one point, it resulted in so many fatalities that the French government tried to ban it, but had to back down in the face of local opposition. The bulls themselves are generally fairly small, much less imposing than the adult bulls employed in the corrida. Nonetheless, the bulls remain dangerous due to their mobility and vertically formed horns. Participants and spectators share the risk; it is not unknown for angry bulls to smash their way through barriers and charge the surrounding crowd of spectators. The course landaise is not seen as a dangerous sport by many, but écarteur Jean-Pierre Rachou died in 2003 when a bull's horn tore his femoral artery.

Similar customs in other countries

Tamil Nadu (Indian)

Jallikattu is a traditional bull-taming sport played in Tamil Nadu, India, as a part of Pongal celebration. It is held in the villages of Tamil Nadu as a part of the village festivals held from January to July, with the most popular event held in Alanganallur, near Madurai. Jallikattu bulls belong to a few specific breeds of cattle that descended from the naturally pugnacious kangayam breed of cattle. In jallikattu, the bull isn't killed and the competitors are unarmed; the sport is also known as manju virattu ("chasing the bull").

There are three main varieties of jallikattu:

  • Found mainly in the districts of Madurai, Pudukkottai, Theni, Tanjore, and Salem, Vadi manju virattu involves a bull released from an enclosure, and the player attempts to cling to its hump. The bull attempts to shake off the rider, who competes to keep his hold on the bull while it runs a predetermined distance.
  • Vaeli virattu has a bull released into an open field, where it may either run, or stand its ground and be taunted by players who approach it and dodge its attacks.
  • Vadam manjuvirattu (vadam meaning "rope" in Tamil) involves a bull tied to a 50-foot-long rope (15 m) and free to move within that radius. A team of seven or nine members must attempt to subdue the bull within 30 minutes.

Persian Gulf

Bullfighting is found in Oman and the United Arab Emirates. This form of bullfighting is not lethal: two Brahman bulls are presented to each other and allowed to lock horns and fight, while their handlers hold ropes to separate them if necessary.[20]

The origins of bullfighting in Oman are unknown, though locals believe it was brought to Oman by the Moors who had conquered Spain. Its existence in Oman and the UAE is also attributed to Portugal which colonized the Omani coastline for nearly two centuries,[21][22] and also introduced bullfighting to Omani Zanzibar.[23]

United States

Main article: Bullfighter (rodeo)

Freestyle bullfighting is a style of bullfighting developed in American rodeo. The style was developed by the rodeo clowns who protect bull riders from being trampled or gored by an angry bull. Freestyle bullfighting is a 70-second competition in which the bullfighter (rodeo clown) avoids the bull by means of dodging, jumping and use of a barrel. Competitions are organized in the US as the World Bullfighting Championship (WBC) and the Dickies National Bullfighting Championship under auspices of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR).

A distinct type of bloodless bullfighting is practised in California's Central Valley. In this historically Portuguese-settled area, a form of bullfight has developed in which the bull is taunted by a matador, but the lances are tipped with velcro and aimed at velcro patches secured to the bull's shoulder. Fights occur from May through October around traditional Portuguese holidays.[24]

Balkans and Turkey

Grmeč, a mountain in the extreme west of Bosnia, is the best-known site of bullfights in the Balkans. They are called the Corrida of Grmeč (Grmečka korida) and have been organised on every first Sunday in August for over 200 years, attracting thousands of visitors. These are fights between bulls themselves and there is no death of a bull. Fights happen in an empty field.[25] The Corrida of Grmeč was depicted by the sculptor Slobodan Pejić. The sculpture of two bulls in a fight, made in bronze in 2004, has been compared to a confrontation of the oppressor and the oppressed or of the Bosnian people and the Austrian Emperor.[26]

A similar type of bull-against-bull wrestling found in Turkey is known as boğa güreşi (Turkish). Each year, third week of the June, a festival takes place in the city of Artvin. From the beginning of the festival, certain rules are applied in order to prevent the bulls from damage. Such as if a bull retreats from fight, it means defeat, etc.[27]


Bullfighting was introduced by the Portuguese to Zanzibar and to Pemba Island, in modern Tanzania, where it is known as mchezo wa ngombe. Similar to the Portuguese Azorean tourada a corda, the bull is restrained by a rope, generally neither bull nor player is harmed, and the bull is not killed at the end of the fight.[28][29]

Okinawa (Japan)

In Okinawa a wide variety of animal-against-animal fights are popular, including a non-lethal form of bullfighting (known as tōgyū or ushi-aasee in Okinawan language[30]) in which two bulls attempt, as in sumo wrestling to push one another out of a ring.[31] The sport originally came to the Ryuku Islands from mainland Japan.[32]


Spanish-style bullfighting is normally fatal for the bull, but it is also dangerous for the matador. Matadors are usually gored every season, with picadors and banderilleros being gored less often. With the discovery of antibiotics and advances in surgical techniques, fatalities are now rare, although over the past three centuries 533 notable professional bullfighters have died in the ring or from injuries sustained there.[33]

Some matadors, notably Juan Belmonte, have been seriously gored many times: according to Ernest Hemingway, Belmonte's legs were marred by many ugly scars. A special type of surgeon has developed, in Spain and elsewhere, to treat cornadas, or horn-wounds.

The bullring has a chapel where a matador can pray before the corrida, and where a priest can be found in case a sacrament is needed. The most relevant sacrament is now called "Anointing of the Sick"; it was formerly known as "Extreme Unction", or the "Last Rites".

The media often reports the more horrific of bullfighting injuries, such as the September 2011 goring of matador Juan José Padilla's head by a bull in Zaragoza, resulting in the loss of his left eye, use of his right ear and facial paralysis. He returned to bullfighting five months later with an eyepatch, multiple titanium plates in his skull, and the nickname 'The Pirate'.[34]

Cultural aspects

Many supporters of bullfighting regard it as a deeply ingrained, integral part of their national cultures. The aesthetic of bullfighting is based on the interaction of the man and the bull. Rather than a competitive sport, the bullfight is more of a ritual, which is judged by aficionados (bullfighting fans) based on artistic impression and command. Ernest Hemingway said of it in his 1932 non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon: "Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honour." Bullfighting is seen as a symbol of Spanish culture.

The bullfight is regarded as a demonstration of style, technique and courage by its participants and as a demonstration of cruelty and cowardice by its critics. Whilst there is usually no doubt about the outcome, the bull is not viewed by bullfighting supporters as a sacrificial victim—it is instead seen by the audience as a worthy adversary, deserving of respect in its own right.

Those who oppose bullfighting maintain that the practice is merely a cowardly, sadistic tradition of slowly torturing, humiliating and finally murdering a terrified, dying bull who vomits blood, bellows in agony, and desperately seeks his escape amid pomp and pageantry of unashamed people who applaud when he finally collapses and then is killed.[35] Supporters of bullfights, called "aficionados", claim they respect the bulls and that bullfighting is a grand tradition; a form of art important to their culture.[36]

Popularity, controversy and criticism

Animal rights

Bullfighting is criticized by animal rights activists, referring to it as a cruel or barbaric blood sport, in which the bull suffers severe stress and a slow, torturous death.[37][38][39][40] A number of animal rights or animal welfare activist groups undertake anti-bullfighting actions in Spain and other countries. According to a poll conducted in Atlanta, U.S.A., in 2003, 46% of the Americans polled hated or strongly disliked bull fighting.[41] In Spanish, opposition to bullfighting is referred to as antitaurina.

Bullfighting guide The Bulletpoint Bullfight warns that bullfighting is "not for the squeamish", advising spectators to "be prepared for blood." The guide details prolonged and profuse bleeding caused by horse-mounted lancers; the charging by the bull of a blindfolded, armored horse who is "sometimes doped up, and unaware of the proximity of the bull"; the placing of barbed darts by banderilleros; followed by the matador's fatal sword thrust. The guide stresses that these procedures are a normal part of bullfighting and that death is rarely instantaneous. The guide further warns those attending bullfights to "Be prepared to witness various failed attempts at killing the animal before it lies down."[42]

Others, such as author Alexander Fiske-Harrison who trained as a bullfighter to research for a book on the subject, have argued that there are mitigating circumstances to this: "In terms of animal welfare, the fighting bull lives four to six years whereas the meat cow lives one to two. What it is more, it doesn’t just live in the sense of existing, it lives a full and natural life. Those years are spent free roaming in the dehesa, the lightly wooded natural pastureland which is the residue of the ancient forests of Spain. It is a rural idyll, although with the modern additions of full veterinary care and an absence of predators big enough to threaten evolution’s answer to a main battle tank." Other arguments include that the death of animals in slaughterhouses is very often worse than the death in the ring, and that both types of animal die for entertainment since humans do not need to consume meat, eating it instead for taste (bulls enter the food chain after the bullfight).[43]


It has also been noted by critics that bullfighting is financed with public money.[44] In 2007, the Spanish fighting bull breeding industry was allocated 500 million euros in grants,[45] and in 2008 almost 600 million.[46] Some of this money comes from European funds to livestock.[47] Bullfighting supporters argue that almost every single cultural endeavour in Europe is partially financed by public money and few of them generate the kind of revenue and taxes in return that bullfighting does through its impact on businesses like hotels, restaurants, insurances and other industries directly or indirectly linked to the spectacle. In Spain, bullfighting constitutes an estimated 12% of the €15 billion entertainment industry.[48]


Another current of criticism comes from aficionados themselves, who may despise modern developments such as the defiant style ("antics" for some) of El Cordobés or the lifestyle of Jesulín de Ubrique, a common subject of Spanish gossip magazines.


Late-19th-century / early-20th-century Fin-de-siècle Spanish regeneracionista intellectuals protested against what they called the policy of pan y toros ("bread and bulls"), an analogue of Roman panem et circenses promoted by politicians to keep the populace content in its oppression. During the Franco dictatorship, bullfights were supported by the state as something genuinely Spanish, as the fiesta nacional, so that bullfights became associated with the regime and, for this reason, many thought they would decline after the transition to democracy, but this did not happen. Later social-democratic governments, particularly the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, have generally been more opposed to bullfighting, prohibiting children under 14 from attending and limiting or prohibiting the broadcast of bullfights on national TV.

Some in Spain despise bullfighting because of its association with the Spanish nation and the Franco regime.[49] Despite its long history and popularity in Barcelona, in 2010 bullfighting was outlawed across the Catalonia region, following a campaign led by an animal rights civic platform called "Prou!" ("Enough!" in Catalan). Critics have argued that the ban was motivated by issues of Catalan independentism.[50]

The Spanish Royal Family is divided on the issue, from Queen Sophia who does not hide her dislike for bullfights;[51] to King Juan Carlos who occasionally presides over a bullfight from the royal box as part of his official duties;[52][53][54] to their daughter Princess Elena who is well known for her liking of bullfights and who often accompanies the king in the presiding box or attends privately in the general seating.[55] The King has allegedly stated that "the day the EU bans bullfighting is the day Spain leaves the EU".[56]

Pro-bullfighting supporters include the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his government, who say the tradition is an art-form deep rooted in Spanish history. Thus the 6-year ban on live bullfights broadcast on the state-run TV Chanel has been lifted and live Bullfights are shown at the traditional 6 p.m. time on TVE as of September 2012.[57]



In Judaism, the Talmud (Nezikin: Avodah Zarah) discusses the Rabbis' warning against visiting "stadiums and circuses." Prominent eleventh-century scholar Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (Rashi) interpreted "stadiums" as referring to "a place where they taunt the bull." Eighteenth-century scholar Rabbi Yechezkel Landau (Noda' BiYehuda) was asked if one may hunt for sport. He answered that one may not, for it involves putting oneself in danger and is a demonstration of cruelty toward animals. Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Rav Ovadia Yosef was asked specifically if one may watch a bullfight. He answered that it is forbidden: one must not go to places where performing acts of cruelty against animals is made into a form of amusement.[58]


Housni al-Khateeb Shehada, an Israeli college lecturer on Islamic art and culture, analyzed the responses of Sunni jurists at IslamOnline to inquiries relating to animal cruelty and concluded that there is a strict prohibition against tormenting animals for purposes of amusement, entertainment, or spectator sport. [59]

On 17 October 1987, during its 10th session, the Islamic Council discussed the practices of bullfighting and animal pits (where two or more animals are agitated and forced to fight each other for the sole purpose of entertainment), and issued a fatwa that both are considered haraam due to their cruel nature.[60]

Media prohibitions

State-run Spanish TVE had cancelled live coverage of bullfights in August 2007 until September 2012, claiming that the coverage was too violent for children who might be watching, and that live coverage violated a voluntary, industry-wide code attempting to limit "sequences that are particularly crude or brutal".[61] In October 2008, in a statement to Congress, Luis Fernández, the President of Spanish State Broadcaster TVE, confirmed that the station will no longer broadcast live bullfights due to the high cost of production and a rejection of the events by advertisers. However the station will continue to broadcast 'Tendido Cero', a bullfighting magazine programme.[62] Having the national Spanish TV stop broadcasting it, after 50 years of history, was considered a big step for its abolition. Nevertheless, other regional and private channels keep broadcasting it with good audiences.[63]

The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his government have lifted the ban on live bullfights being shown on TVE and live bullfights are now shown at the traditional 6 p.m. time on TVE as of September 2012.[57]

A Portuguese television station stopped broadcasting of bullfights in January 2008, on the grounds that they were too violent for minors.[64]

Declaration as Cultural Patrimony

A growing list of Spanish, French and South American cities and regions have started to formally declare their celebrations of bullfighting part of their protected cultural patrimony. Most of these declarations have come into place as a counter-reaction in the aftermath of the 2010 ban in Catalonia.[65]

As of April 2012, the latest addition to this list is the Andalusian City of Seville.[66]


Pre-20th century

In November 1567, Pope Pius V issued a papal bull titled De Salute Gregis and forbidding fighting of bulls and any other beasts as the voluntary risk to life endangered the soul of the combatants, but it was abolished eight years later by his successor, Pope Gregory XIII, at the request of King Philip II.

Bullfighting was introduced in Uruguay in 1776 by Spain and abolished by Uruguayan law in February 1912. Bullfighting was also introduced in Argentina by Spain, but after Argentina's independence, the event drastically diminished in popularity and was abolished in 1899 under law 2786.[67]

Bullfighting also saw a presence in Cuba during its colonial period, but was abolished by the United States military during their period of governance following the Spanish-American War in1901.[68] Bullfighting was also banned for a period in Mexico in 1890; consequently some Spanish bullfighters moved to the United States to transfer their skills to the American rodeos.[69]

During the 18th and 19th centuries, bullfighting in Spain was banned at several occasions (for instance by Philip V), but always reinstituted later by other governments.

Bullfighting had some popularity in the Philippines during Spanish rule, though foreign commentators derided the quality of local bulls and toreros.[70][71] Bullfighting was noted in the Philippines as early as 1619, when it was among the festivities in celebration of Pope Urban III's authorisation of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.[72] Following the Spanish-American War, the Americans suppressed the custom in the Philippines under the tenure of Governor General Leonard Wood, and it was replaced with a now-popular Filipino sport, basketball.[73]

20th century onwards

Bullfighting is now banned in many countries; people taking part in such activity would be liable for terms of imprisonment for animal cruelty. "Bloodless" variations, though, are permitted and have attracted a following in California, Texas, and France.[74] In southern France, however, the traditional form of the corrida still exists and it is protected by French law. While it is not very popular in Texas, bullfighting is legal in that U.S. state (the only one to allow it), and both bloodless and pure forms of bullfighting occur at rodeos in small Texas towns.[75]

In 1991, the Canary Islands became the first Spanish Autonomous Community to ban bullfighting,[50] when they legislated to ban bullfights and other spectacles that involve cruelty to animals, with the exception of cockfighting, which is traditional in some towns in the Islands.[76] Some supporters of bullfighting and even Lorenzo Olarte Cullen,[77] Canarian head of government at the time, have argued that the fighting bull is not a "domestic animal" and hence the law does not ban bullfighting.[78] The absence of spectacles since 1984 would be due to lack of demand. In the rest of Spain, national laws against cruelty to animals have abolished most blood sports, but specifically exempt bullfighting.

Several cities around the world (especially in Catalonia) have symbolically declared themselves to be Anti-Bullfighting Cities, including Barcelona in 2006. This was symbolic, as the city did not have the power to stop it. However, on 1 January 2012, it became prohibited in Catalonia (including Barcelona, the capital of this region) after a ban passed in the Regional Government in July 2010 came into effect in 2012.[79]


Ecuador staged bullfights to the death for over three centuries due to being a former Spanish colony.

On 12 December 2010, Ecuador's president Rafael Correa announced that in an upcoming referendum, the country would be asked whether to ban bullfighting;[80][81][82] in the referendum, held in May 2011, the Ecuadorians agreed on banning the final killing of the bull that happens in a corrida.[83] This means the bull is no longer killed before the public, and is instead taken back inside the barn to be killed at the end of the event. The other parts of the corrida are still performed the same way as before in the cities that celebrate it.[84] This part of the referendum is applied on a regional level, meaning that in regions where the population voted against the ban, which are the same regions where bullfighting is celebrated the most, killing the animal publicly in the bullfighting plaza is still performed. The main bullfighting celebration of the country, the Fiesta Brava in Quito was still allowed to take place in December 2011 after the referendum under these new rules.[85]

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica the law prohibits the killing of bulls and other animals in public and private shows.[86]


On 18 December 2009, the parliament of Catalonia, one of Spain's seventeen Autonomous Communities, approved by majority the preparation of a law to ban bullfighting in Catalonia, as a response to a popular initiative against bullfighting that gathered more than 180,000 signatures.[87] On 28 July 2010, with the two main parties allowing their members a free vote, the ban was passed 68 to 55, with 9 abstentions. This meant Catalonia became the second Community of Spain (first was Canary Islands in 1991), and the first on the mainland, to ban bullfighting. The ban took effect on 1 January 2012, and affects only the one remaining functioning Catalonian bullring, the Plaza de toros Monumental de Barcelona.[50][88] It does not affect the correbous, a traditional game of the Ebro area (south of Catalonia) where lighted flares are attached to a bull’s horns. The correbous are seen mainly in the municipalities in the south of Tarragona, with the exceptions of a few other towns in other provinces of Catalonia. The name correbous is essentially Catalan and Valencian; in other parts of Spain they have other names.[89]

There is a movement to revoke the ban in the Spanish congress, citing the value of bullfighting as "cultural heritage." The proposal is backed by the majority of parliamentarians.[90]

See also


Further reading

  • ISBN 1-84668-335-1 By a British author who trained as a bullfighter.
  • "Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías").* Ciofalo, John J. "The Artist in the Vicinity of Death". The Self-Portraits of Francisco Goya. Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Hardouin-Fugier, Elisabeth. Bullfighting: A Troubled History (U. of Chicago Press, 2010); 206 pages, ISBN 978-1-86189-518-9
  • Kennedy, A.L. (AL Kennedy), On Bullfighting, 2001, Anchor Books, ISBN 0-385-72081-5
  • Marvin, Garry, "Bullfight", 1988, University of Illinois Press, ISBN 978-0-252-06437-1
  • Ogorzaly, Michael A, When Bulls Cry: The Case Against Bullfighting, 2006, AuthorHouse, ISBN 1-4259-2772-6
  • Pink, Sarah, "Women & Bull Fighting", 1997, Berg Publishers, ISBN 1-85973-961-X
  • Poon, Wena, "Alex y Robert", Salt Publishing, London, 2010. ISBN 978-1-907773-08-2. Literary novel about a Texan teenage girl training as a matador in contemporary Spain. Also a BBC Radio 4 series.
  • Poon, Wena "Novillera", USA, 2013. ISBN 1484134699. Sequel to Alex y Robert, about an American woman bullfighter challenging male-dominated world of Spanish bullring. With black/white photography .
  • . Article about the first Mexican bullfight held in the United States, in 1884.
  • Tosko, Catherine, The Bull and the Ban, 2012, Suerte Publishing, ISBN 978-1477466872. Account of the bullfighting abolition in Catalonia
  • Witwer, Kitty. K., Divine Addiction, 1985, Primate Publishing, ISBN 978-0961528911. Journals from an aficionada in Spain and Latin America, with Barnaby Conrad.
  • Wojciechowska, Maia Shadow of a Bull. Book about a bullfighter's son.
  • Wood, Tristan. "How To Watch A Bullfight", 2011, Merlin Unwin Books, ISBN 978-1-906122-27-0
  • Bullfighter Renounces Killing |
  • Watch out for the Bull, a comic novel with bullrunning in Feder'Hell as a principle theme

External links

  • Bullfighting Faq
  • CAS International Anti-Bullfighting Organization
  • Alexander Fiske-Harrison
  • The Bullfighter and the Lady, a film about an expat American training as a matador.

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