Running of the Bulls
Situated in the center of the province of Navarre, Spain, Pamplona is home to one of the most famous bull-running fiestas in Spain. Undoubtedly, even those who have never had the opportunity to set foot in Spain are familiar with the bull fighting traditions； however, this running of the bulls is open to anyone who wishes to participate and is not a professional sport. It involves the teasing and taunting of bulls before the start of the run to enrage them, at which point, they are set loose to run along streets that have been sectioned off to direct their course. Participants run in front of the charging bulls while attempting to dodge the horns of the bulls or being trampled. Inevitably, there are a number of casualties every year. In some unfortunate circumstances, there are those who lose their life during the run as well. The last runner who lost their life was an American tourist who was gored by one of the bulls in 1995.
The festival is said to have originated in the 16th century when it was necessary to herd the bulls from corrals that were removed from the bull fighting ring where they would later be killed. Although specific drovers existed for the herding process, the butcher’s guild, who were in charge of buying the bulls, began to join the procession to help drive the bulls from behind. The event increased in popularity as daring youth decided to start running in front of the bulls. Today, people come from all over the world to take part in the event.
The festival runs every year from July 7th-14th, and thousands pack into Pamplona to start the fiesta which honors Navarre capital’s patron saint, San Fermin. Spain stages more than 3,000 fiestas (festivals) each year but the 7 days of bull-running are the favorite in terms of spectacle and excitement.
After the daybreak of July 7th, runners (mainly young men) gather at the bottom of Santo Domingo, which is the starting line. Then, as a rocket goes off, a number of fighting bulls are let out onto the streets. A second rocket is then let off to make sure everyone knows the bulls are loose in the street. The bulls run along the narrow street 825 metres (half a mile) to a bull ring. The runners dash along in front of the bulls, aiming to feel the breath of the bull on their backs, getting as close as possible - all whilst trying to avoid getting gored by their sharp horns. When the bulls finally reach the end of the street, they go into pens and are kept until later that day when they are killed in a bullfight.
In recent years, animal rights activists have begun to stage an opposing run two days before the event titled, “Running of the Nudes” to protest the inhumane treatment of the bulls. Hundreds of activists run through the streets of Pamplona wearing not much more than a red scarf and plastic horns in protest. During the bull’s run, it is not only the runners who are injured. Bulls often slip and fall into the walls and sides of buildings as a result of their hooves gripping poorly on the cobbled streets, and can sustain serious injuries. Runners also often poke the bulls with sticks or pull their tails, resulting in the bulls chaotic run to escape the streets lined with runners.