Running Holidays on the Costa Blanca
Pamplona - Spain's most famous bull spectacle

Bullfights and fiestas - a Spanish tradition

Bullrunning in the steets of Pamplona

Every year from 7 to 14 July, thousands pack into Pamplona to start Spain's most famous bull-running fiesta in honour of the capitol of Navarre's patron saint, San Fermin.

Spain stages more than 3,000 fiestas (festivals) each year but the tradition of the seven days of bull-running are the favourite in terms of spectacle and excitement.

All over Spain towns have their fiestas, many of which have bull runs. And Denia on the Costa Blanca is famous for having more fiestas than any other town in Spain.

The runners dash in front of the bulls

Meanwhile back in Pamplona, after the daybreak of 7 July, runners - mainly young men - gather at the bottom of Santo Domingo, which is the starting line. They crowd together and sing to the image of San Fermin which is placed in a niche on a wall. The song goes:

A San Fermín pedimos, por ser nuestro patrón, nos guíe en el encierro dándonos su bendición, which means "We ask San Fermín, as our Patron, to guide us through the Bull Run and give us his blessing."

Then, as a rocket goes off, several 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 for 825 metres (half a mile) to a bull ring. Although the streets are lined with timber, on many a bull run they have still been known to escape into a house!

Bullrunning in the steets of Pamplona

The runners dash along in front of the bulls, all the while trying to avoid getting gored by their sharp horns. The supposed way to do this is to start off slowly when the bulls some distance behind. Then, as they get nearer you start running like hell! You can then go near them for a short time, as near as you are prepared to risk, and then quickly get out of the way. Runners look for a gap in the fence to slip through or jump over, or a space against the wall of the street.

It is not uncommon for runners to be killed by bulls. In 2006 three people were killed and many injured whilst bull running. The bulls take this seriously too!

When the bulls finally reach the end of the street, they go into pens where they are kept until later that day for a bullfight.

A history dating back to the 16th Century

The tradition is said to have come from practicality when, in 1591 residents merely had to herd the bulls to the bull-fighting arena. At first only the drovers were used to lead the bulls. But it seems that at some date, the butchers guild, who had the responsibility of buying the bulls, began to join in with the drovers and began to chase behind the bulls and heifers up to the bull-ring from Santo Domingo street - the starting point of the run. As time passed, the event became more and more popular and some people began to run in front of the bulls and not behind them, as the drovers do.

In 1852, a new bull-ring was built together with a new, shorter route. In 1899, it was decided to bring the bulls up to a small corral in Santo Domingo street the night before they fight in the ring. Originally only a few daring souls ran with the bulls but the adrenaline rush of dashing in front of a 1500-pound bull has since caught on.

People now journey from all around the world to join in this spectacle.

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