This year, Pamplona encierro or Pamplona bull run is held on 6-14 July during the nine-day festival of Sanfermines in honour of Saint Fermin in Pamplona, the historical capital city of Navarre, Spain. Saint Fermin is the patron saint of Navarre, who was said to be martyred by being tied to a bull by his feet and dragged to his death. Pamplona encierro is the most famous bull run, although the bull run is also traditionally held in other places such as towns and villages across Spain, Portugal, in some cities in Mexico, and southern France during the summer.
The bull run was a practice that involves running in front of a small group of cattle, typically six, of the toro bravo breed that have been let loose on a course of a sectioned-off subset of a town’s streets. Based on the Spanish tradition, the bull run was originated in northeastern Spain during the early 14th century. While transporting cattle in order to sell them at the market, men would try to speed the process by hurrying their cattle using tactics of fear and excitement. In Pamplona and other places, the six bulls in the event are still those that will feature in the afternoon bullfight of the same day.
Participants of Pamplona encierro must be at least 18 years old, run in the same direction as the bulls, not incite the bulls, and not be under the influence of alcohol. Before the bull run, a set of wooden fences are erected to direct the bulls along the route and to block off side streets. The bull run will then be started with runners singing a benediction three times, each time being sung both in Spanish and Basque. Afterwards four rockets will be set off. The first is set off at 8 a.m. to alert the runners that the corral gate is open. The second rocket signals that all six bulls have been released. The third and fourth rockets are signals that all of the herd has entered the bullring and its corral respectively, marking the end of the event. The length of the run is 875 meters (957 yards), and the average duration between the first rocket and the end of the encierro is two minutes, 30 seconds. Runner usually wear white pants, white shirt with a red scarf around the waist and a red handkerchief around the neck.
Although very famous, every year between 50 and 100 people are injured during the Pamplona bull run. Up to 200 volunteers, mostly from the Red Cross, have been deployed in 16 sanitary posts (every 50 meters on average), each one with at least a physician and a nurse among their personnel, to provide medical attentions. Many animal rights activists also oppose the event. Activist of PETA, an American animal rights organization, created the “running of the nudes”, a demonstration done two days before the beginning of San Fermín in Pamplona. By marching naked, they protested the festival and the following bullfight, arguing the bulls are tortured for entertainment.
What about you? Would you watch, or even participate, in the most famous bull run in the world? What do you think of the controversy? Tell us!