Pamplona- A cow's eye view

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July 6th 2007
Published: September 13th 2007
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Hi My name is Vaca, I am a cow and I live in Spain. Being a cow in Spain isn't the same as being a cow in any other country in the world because every year in July the Spaniards hold the San Fermin Festival aka The Running of the Bulls. Sanfermines, held in honour of Saint Fermin, the patron saint of Pamplona and Navarre now attracts visitors from all over the world... visitors hoping to run with the bulls and survive, witness a bull fight and party all night long. Well thats all well and good. If your not a bull. Or a cow for that matter. Every year I see my friends, my husbands, my brothers and sons go off to take part in this madness. Theres no stopping them, there is a lot of pride in being one of the bulls selected even though it means your going to get tormented and slaughtered in front of a crowd of thousands. So now Im speaking out. Im taking the proverbial bull by the horns (one of my favourite expressions by the way) and trying to shed some light from our point of view, the cows left behind.

The Festival starts on a Friday and the day of the Opening Ceremony I have no problem with. There are no bulls involved today... just a huge party! All the locals and all the tourists gather in the town square with red scarves tied around their wrists yelling and singing, throwing sangria and champagne, flour and eggs. Its quite funny to watch from my spot here in my paddock the bus loads going in and out from the campsites and unsuspecting people all shiny white and clean being covered head to toe in the sticky red stuff. The tension builds until 12.00 when the sirens are sounded to mark the beginning of San Fermin for that year. The red scarves have now been taken off peoples wrists and they are holding them above their heads, waving them and singing that god awful song that gives me shudders whenever i hear it just from sheer repetition “ole, ole ole ole”. Once all the sirens have finished the scarves get tied around the neck, and thats where they are meant to stay for the duration of the festival. Now the party has well and truly started and it will not finish for ten days, the streets will be filled night after night and early in the mornings for the actual run- there is still time for a siesta in the middle of the day.

The encierro (running) begins with the letting off of two rockets, the cohetes. One firecracker announces the release of the bulls from their corral, and a second firecracker signals that the last bull has left the corral. The bulls get a chance to get a bit of their own back here and although most run straight on through to the arena a few of the more rebellious ones (usually that Rebelde tribe from the other side of the train tracks) like to dig a horn or two into the backsides of those who dare to run. Once they get into the arena the bulls have a bit of fun, being let loose on the locals and tourists. The sensible spectators sit in the stands and watch the carnage- I reckon it would be a great spectacle to see people being flung over horns and trying to be all brave and then running as fast as they can if the bull even looks in their direction! Now up to this point no bulls have been killed (a couple of tourists maybe but they have a choice to run!) and everyones having a great time and laughing and the bulls have had a run around and shown their stuff and thats where it should STOP. But no, there has to be more... and this is the part that i just cant bear... ahhh mooo hoo hooo... excuse me readers while i compose myself... moo hoo sob sob moo.... oh i just cant go on, my friend Wikipedia will take you through the next part.

The tradition of bull fighting, as it is practiced today, involves professional performers (toreros or matadores) who execute various formal moves with the goal of appearing graceful and confident, while masterful over the bull itself. Such manoeuvers are performed at close range, and conclude with the death of the bull by a well-placed sword thrust as the finale. Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship (pfft couldve fooled me) and sacrifice. The killing of the sacred bull (tauromachy) is the essential central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. Many of the oldest bullrings in Spain are located on or adjacent to the sites of temples to Mithras.

Spanish-style bullfighting is called a corrida de toros or fiesta brava and is better translated as "Running of the bulls". In traditional corrida, three toreros, or matadores, each fight two bulls, each of which is at least four years old and weighs 460-600 kg. Each matador has six assistants — two picadores ("lancers") mounted on horseback, three banderilleros ("flagmen"), and a mozo de espada ("sword page"). Collectively they comprise a cuadrilla ("entourage").

The modern corrida is highly ritualized, with three distinct stages or tercios, the start of each being announced by a trumpet sound. The participants first enter the arena in a parade to salute the presiding dignitary, accompanied by band music. Torero costumes are inspired by 18th century Andalusian clothing, and matadores are easily distinguished by their spectacular "suit of lights" (traje de luces).

Next, the bull enters the ring to be tested for ferocity by the matador and banderilleros with the magenta and gold capote ("dress cape").

In the first stage, the tercio de varas ("the lancing third"), the matador first confronts the bull and observes his behavior in an initial section called suerte de capote. Next, a picador enters the arena on horseback armed with a varas ("lance"). To protect the horse from the bull’s horns, the horse is surrounded by a 'peto' - a mattress-like protection. Prior to 1928, the horse did not wear any protection and the bull would literally disembowel the horse during this stage. (Me again, can you believe this... they protect the bloody horse!!!)

At this point, the picador stabs a mound of muscle on the bull's neck, leading to the animal's first loss of blood. The manner in which the bull charges the horse provides important clues to the matador on which side the bull is favoring. If the picador does his job well, the bull will hold its head and horns lower during the following stages of the fight. This makes it slightly less dangerous while enabling the matador to perform the elegant passes of modern bullfighting.

In the next stage, the tercio de banderillas ("the third of flags"), the three banderilleros each attempt to plant two razor sharp barbed sticks (called banderillas) on the bull's flanks, ideally as close as possible to the wound where the picador drew first blood. These
Opening CeremonyOpening CeremonyOpening Ceremony

Everyone was singing and yelling and throwing sangria!
further weaken the enormous ridges of neck and shoulder muscle through loss of blood, while also frequently spurring the bull into making more ferocious charges.

In the final stage, the tercio de muerte ("the third of death"), the matador re-enters the ring alone with a small red cape (muleta) and a sword. It's a common myth that the color red is supposed to anger the bull, despite the fact that bulls are colorblind. He uses his cape to attract the bull in a series of passes, both demonstrating his control over it and risking his life by getting especially close to it. The faena ("work") is the entire performance with the muleta, which is usually broken down into "tandas" or "series". The faena ends with a final series of passes in which the matador with a muleta attempts to maneuver the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. The act of thrusting the sword is called an estocada.

So thats it... thats the brutality that happens EVERY NIGHT FOR TEN NIGHTS. Thats 70 bulls teased, tortured and brutalised every year and thats just at Pamplona. I just dont understand it. You can see for yourself inthe pictures the slaughter that goes on.. and still people want more blood! I even heard one Australian girl say it wasnt as grotesque as she was hoping. The nerve! I will not rest until this ghastly practice is stopped. And thats all I have to say baout that. Moo.

Additional photos below
Photos: 28, Displayed: 27


Scenes from the opening ceremonyScenes from the opening ceremony
Scenes from the opening ceremony

Just before the sirens!
Marshy and ChezMarshy and Chez
Marshy and Chez

We love you Marshy!!

13th September 2007

Oh poor little cow!!!
Only you would think to do your blog from the eyes of the are a clever little thing Amy. I loved reading very entertaining and informative. Even a few giggles. Maybe your career change should be in the writing department. Cant wait to read the rest xxx
13th September 2007

Awesome Format!
I love the way you wrote this blog! Really great stuff. Looked like fun huh? At least you can still "Run with the Roos" in Australia. Less injuries and stuff. More later!! :)
18th October 2007

ohhh running with the bulls... I wanna do that too! :-) and, nice blog U have!
6th October 2011
The cutest little toredor!

Such an awesome picture
...and was cool to read about San Fermin from another persons point of view.

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