November 28, 2020


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Bullfighting is one of the most famous customs upheld by the Spanish. It draws attention worldwide from people who just love the sport, and also from many others who are against this barbaric onslaught. I happened to attend this barbaric ‘sport’ some years ago when I was in Barcelona and was appalled and sickened by it. There was nothing exciting about it and most of the ‘Brits’ I was with were bored.

Stuffed like sardines into a jam-packed arena, avid enthusiasts who, in support of this sport, excite each other with roars of encouragement for the bullfight to commence. Cheers of, “Ole,” is how excited spectators greet this mighty powerful bull as he makes his grand entrance and presence known to all. Confused and not sure as to why he is the centre of attention, the bull decides to take advantage of his new famed popularity by giving a priceless performance to the maddening crowd. He does this by digging a hoof into the ground beneath him sending dust clouds swirling into the air while at the same time, from his steaming nostrils, he produces an encore of snorts.

Looking more like a riot at football match the cramped stadium and all the commotion makes the beast very nervous. Why he was summoned here today he does not know – but he will soon find out.

What on earth is the bull thinking? There is jubilation among the crowds as the adrenalin begins to pump for all who have gathered to this event. It is only minutes away before the bullfight.

Picadors armed with lances announce their presence into the arena on horseback to a stadium of screaming fans. All mounts are blind folded. The picador’s job is to tantalise and maim the bull before slaughter. This is done by following orders that, on departure from the ring, they must leave all weapons behind. They do just that – pierced between the shoulder blades of a very frightened bull.

This is just the beginning of the end. Stunned dazed and hurting, the bull now with so many body piercings still manages a few breathless snorts. The reflection of his image is like that of a voodoo doll. It is not a pretty sight.

If the efforts of the picadors were never enough at a bullfight, you next have the tercio de banderillas whose mission is to distract the bull. They do this by running in circles in and around the animal thus making him tired and dizzy.

Stabbed and drained of his almighty strength and unable to raise his head due to his injuries this makes the bull an easy target for the mighty matador.

In all his finery the matador enters the arena alone with a black beret, jewelled bolero red cape, a sword and breeches buttoned at the knees. This sight alone is enough to scare any bull. It is a common misconception that the colour red is supposed to anger the bull, because bulls, in fact, are colour blind 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 a beautiful display or faena. He may also demonstrate his domination over the bull by caping it especially close to his body. The faena is the entire performance with the sword and it is usually broken down into tandas, “series”, of passes. The faena ends with a final series of passes in which the matador with a sword attempts to maneuver the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. Spurred on by the cheering crowds the matador produces the fatal blow. All attempts made by the disoriented bull to retaliate to the words TORO are not now that of a fully charged up angry irate bull. Amnesty is given to the bull should the matador miss his target. A slayer is called in to put the poor beast out of his misery by cutting the spinal cord with a dagger.

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, 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, they may petition the president of the event to grant the bull a pardon and if granted the bull’s life is spared and it is allowed to leave the ring alive and return to the ranch where it came from. Then the bull becomes a stud bull for the rest of its life.

To think a couple of hours before the bullfight this bull was chewing the cud in fields of green.

Footnote: Since my visit to Spain, in 2006, Barcelona, declared itself an ‘Anti-Bullfighting City’ that was symbolic only as it didn’t have power to stop it. However from Jan 1st 2012 the bullfighting bann in Barcelona became law.

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