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Running of the Bulls

Listed under Festivals in Pamplona, Spain.

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  • Photo of Running of the Bulls
Photo of Running of the Bulls
Photo by flickr user Eneko Alonso
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Pamplona! I wasn’t going to miss that was I! This is one of Spain’s most recognisable features. You’ve seen it on TV: it’s men running just in front of bulls down narrow streets like mad beggers. You don’t have to be a professional to have a go, in fact it’s desirable if you’re just plain mad or young enough to believe you’re invincible. A section of streets about 700 metres long is barricaded off and people jump on in, there aren’t any formalities, if you want to run you just pick a street and wait. Rockets announce the start of the running when the bulls are set free then it’s a free for all for the three minutes it takes for the bulls to get to the bullring and the rockets go off again. The runs run for a week from the 7th to the 14th of July at 8am daily (is that to attract or detract the very drunk I don’t know, but drinking and crowds has increased the danger over the years - frankly I can't imagine how they get the insurance to hold the event!).

A spectacle yes! but it’s pretty rough on the bulls whose hooves slip all around on the cobbled streets and they can fall over onto each other as well as the people (who really have got any injuries they sustain coming to them.).

The used to have these kinds of bull runs before bullfights to get the bulls from their corrals to the ring where they were going to fight and foolhardy young men would jump into the fray. Wikipedia says 15 people have been killed in Pamplona since 1910, the most recent in 2003. Locals say most incidents happen when a bull breaks off from the group and gets disorientated, they’re the kind of animals that will just go for anything, so onlookers beware. Ernest Hemingway captured the essence of the festival and runs so perfectly in ‘The Sun also Rises.’ and I would definitely recommend it as essential reading accompaniment for the festival. This will certainly get your blood pumping but it may get it boiling as well.

Written by  Fabian Condello.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Los Sanfermines

Quite possibly the most testosterone-packed festival in existence, Los Sanfermines is a nine-day, July event which as well as being a heady, spirited street party involves the daily release of several bulls along a blockaded pathway through Pamplona, surrounded by an equally excitable crowd of runners. These ‘encierros’ climax with the traditional (and controversial) bull fights. There are many interwoven and contradictory stories explaining this fiesta’s origin, but as the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’, it is romantically associated largely with male coming of age, the conquering of fear and, for those who have had first-hand experience, a rush of violent, life-affirming adrenaline unlike any other.

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