Running of The Bulls Festival
Originated in the northeastern part of Spain during the early 14th century, the Running of the Bulls is recognized as an internationally famous annual festival. It involves running in front of a small group of bulls that have been let loose on the course of a pre-fenced streets of a town. In all probability, it originated from the practical necessity to accelerate the procedure of transporting the bulls from fields in the village to the town market for selling. During this process of acceleration, youngsters would often jump and run in front of the innocent animals to make them scared and excited, which in turn provoked them to increase their speed and run wildly. Gradually, the whole process began to take shape of a competitive character and with the increased popularity of the competitive nature of the practice, it became a traditional festival.
The most famous festival of the Running of the Bulls is concurrent to the eight-day festival of San Fermines, held every year from 6th to14th of July in honour of Saint Fermin in Pamplona. Nevertheless, it is also traditionally held in other towns and villages across Spain, Portugal, some cities in Mexico and southern France during the summer. However, the Encierro of Pamplona has been depicted many times in literature, television or advertising, which include 'The Sun Also Rises' and 'Death in the Afternoon' authored by Ernest Hemingway.
The golden rule of the game is, the participants must be at least 18 years old, they should not be under the influence of alcohol and should run in the same direction as the bulls and they should never incite the running bulls. Almost all the active participants, called runners, dress in the traditional clothing of the festival consisting of a white shirt and trousers with a red waistband (called 'faja') and neckerchief (panuelo). Among the other colours, blue is considered as the most daring alternative, as it is supposed to draw the attention of the bulls.
Wooden fences are erected along the route of the run to direct the bulls and to block off side streets. The gaps in the fences are wide enough for a human to slip through, but narrow enough to block a bull. Spectators are allowed to stand only behind the subsequent fence, while the space between two fences is reserved for security, medical personnel and the tired participants.
The 'encierro' (The Running of the Bulls) begins with runners singing a benediction, a prayer at a statue of Saint Fermin, the patron of the festival and the city, for his blessings. The first rocket is set off at 8 am to intimate and alert the runners that the corral gate is opened. The next rocket, the second one, signals the release of all the six bulls, while the third and the fourth rocket indicate that all the animals have entered the bullring and its corral respectively. The length of the run is 957 yards, which goes through four specific streets of the old part of the city via the Town Hall Square.
During the hazardous Run, about 50 to 100 people are injured every year, yet the festival goes on with equal or added fire of excitement. On the other hand, every year the animal rights activists oppose the event fervently. They argue that, only for the sake of human entertainment, the poor bulls are mentally tortured and physically injured by the unwanted harassment associated with the event. They raised voice against both the participants and the spectators. In the year 2002, hundreds of activists belonging to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) expressed their protest in a unique way, just two days before the onset of the event. They organized 'Running of the Nudes' and marched naked through the streets of Pamplona.
Since then, the annual protest has become a tradition and every year before the Running of the Bulls festival, hundreds of animal lovers from around the world gather together in Pamplona to protest against the cruelty and to specifically indicate that it is inhuman, contemptible and unethical to torture the dumb animals for human entertainment and promoting tourist trade.
Yet, the Running of the Bulls, one of the great entertaining shows on the earth, still goes on as usual without any deviation.