UWEC’s Wide World of Sports

Into the controversial sport of the running of the bulls and bullfighting

More stories from Lauren Spierings

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April 1, 2021


Men dressed in all white with red bandanas around their necks dash down the road, following a large, angry bull.

The running of the bulls takes place over an eight day period, where six bulls are released in the early morning at 8 a.m. to chase the runners.

Found in the city of Pamplona, in the Navarre region in Spain, the reason for the bull run is due to the San Fermin festival that takes place every July 6 to July 14, CNN said.

Despite it only lasting roughly three and a half minutes or so, the running of the bulls is also a highly debated topic and has caused many controversial arguments. 

According to TIME, the 2019’s running of the bulls resulted in eight goring injuries among participants, two of which were Americans. Overall, 35 people were hospitalized for injuries from the event.  

The injuries are due to the goal of the running of the bulls, that being to get out in front of the bulls and grab them by the horns. While this now results in a heavy fine, injuries are still common in the sport.

Bull running reportedly came from medieval times, when farmers would herd their animals through the town before showing them off in a bull ring. 

The controversy about the sport doesn’t just span Spain; it also reaches internationally. Many animal rights groups protest both the running of the bulls and bullfighting, since the animals are killed at the end in the bullring. There is also a history of sexual assault happening during the festival with something called the Wolf Pack case.

According to CNN, two rockets are launched that push the bulls into charging. They, and the men participating in the run, must dash the 825 meters between the starting point and the bull ring before the run ends. 

According to TIME in the same article, the reason that people participate in the running of the bulls is because it is dangerous — the danger is the point. On July 11, runners protested authorities using anti-slip chemicals and trained steers that would steer the bulls.

The race begins on Santo Domingo St. and finishes in the Plaza de Toros — the “bullring” in English — where a bullfight begins, according to USA Today. Bullfighting is where a matador leads a bull, weaving the bull around their body. Usually, this will end with the matador taking out a sword and killing the bull. 

Three matadors take on the six bulls. Regarded as national heroes, matadors also have a history of receiving debilitating goring injuries or even dying while in the ring.

In part, this is due to the way that the bulls are killed at the end of the fight. The matador must stab the bull on a very small spot between the shoulder blades. Striking here kills the bull quickly. 

According to TIME, since the fights are so dangerous and raise animal rights issues, it is being debated whether they should continue; however it is likely that the running of the bulls will continue.

The bullfights are protected under Spain’s constitution as part of the country’s cultural heritage, so actually banning them would take a lot of work. 

Spierings can be reached at [email protected].