Can you imagine being chased by fifteen bulls and steers down the streets of Pamplona in Spain? Between 6–14 July 2013 this will be a commonplace sight as part of the week-long San Fermin Festival.
And as part of that festival is the most famous event; ‘The Running of the Bulls’, where thousands of people choose to race the bulls from their pens to the bullring. Each summer the city of Pamplona in the Navarre community in northern Spain plays host to the world renowned festival. What started out as a necessity has now become a dangerous, yet exhilarating experience for gutsy travellers from around the world!
A Brief History of Running of the Bulls
Although the exact origins of the Running of the Bulls is not documented, historians know for a fact that the event started out as something of a necessity. When bullfighting became a big hit, there was no other way to transport the fighter bulls from their pens, or corrals, to the bullring, but to run them through the streets. Over time, this 826 meter/903 yard run transformed into a race of sorts.
In order to speed the process of herding the bulls to the ring, men would try to startle the beasts and scare them into a run. Young adults started to race in front of the creatures to see if they can beat them to the bullring. Today’s traditional running of the bulls has evolved out of the simple fact that bulls had to get from one place to the other to face the matadors in the ring.
The San Fermin festival’s daily events start with the running of the bulls at 8:00 a.m., starring 15 animals in total. The six bulls that are slated to fight in the afternoon run down the streets with six steers, followed by three more bulls, released two minutes later. The oxen run with the bulls to lead the herd, running, on average, at 24 km/hr, or 14 miles/hr.
Rockets are used to signal different phases of the running, starting with the first one that is set off to let runners know the corral gate is open. The second rocket is fired after the first six bulls have taken off out of the pen, The third rocket sounds when the bulls have entered the ring, and the last one, signifying the end of the race, confirms that the bulls are secured in their destination pens.
Although this famous event has sparked quite a bit of controversy, more and more people flock to Pamplona each July to participate in the Running of the Bulls. Each year, between 200 and 300 injuries are recorded, mostly from contusions resulting from falls. Since 1910, 15 people have died participating in the event, largely from being gored by the bulls.
Despite the danger posed on both the men and women running against the bulls and to the creatures themselves, many smaller events which mimic the Pamplona Running of the Bulls have popped up around the globe, particularly in Portugal and France.