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Bull fighting in Spain is probably one of the best-known popular customs around the world.
Bullfights are considered one of the symbols of the Hispanic culture. They are not only organized in Spain but also in Portugal, France and part of Latin America, where some customs may vary. However, Spain has the longest season and it is the country in which most of the bullfights take place.
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Bulls started to play an important role in religious ceremonies Iberian tribes organized in prehistoric times. Then, Greeks and Romans introduced fights against bulls as a spectacle and in the Middle Age aristocrats fought them on horseback.
Later on, in the 18th century, humble people started to practice it on foot. Bullfights became incredibly popular and nowadays they are one of the most ancient mass entertainments of the world. In fact, modern bullfighting has evolved very little, adopting its current rules from 250-year-old customs.
Actually, bullfighting is a universe of its own called tauromaquia. Made of hundreds of rules, thousands of traditions and a little bit of superstition, bullfighting evokes one of the most passionate and controversial discussions in and out of Spain.
The Spanish word for bullfighting is corrida de toros that can be literally translated as “running of bulls”.
Bull fighting in Spain is an iconic tradition in which 3 toreros have to fight 2 bulls each and, ultimately, kill them. A bullfight is always held in a round-shape arena or venue called plaza de toros.
The matadores perform in order of seniority, which is set according to the date of each matador‘s alternativa. Thus, the senior one will participate in the first and fourth fights. Then, the second oldest matador will confront the second and fifth bulls. Finally, the least experienced will fight in third and sixth place.
If a matador is gored or injured in any way that prevents him to continue, the senior matador must replace him and complete the fight.
There are two different types of bullfights. The most common one is the corrida a pie (on foot) in which the matador fights the bull face to face on the arena. However, there is also the spectacular corrida de rejones in which the torero fights the bull on horseback.
The only major difference is the way of fighting the bull and the torero’s clothes. On foot they look more elegant, while on horseback they wear a more casual and countryside outfit. Other than that, the corrida follows the same structure.
Every bullfight follows the same pattern and is organized identically. Generally speaking, bullfighting is a very strict event and its participants must respect certain rules at all times.
The event starts with the paseíllo, a parade of all the participants. It is basically a presentation of the matadores and the rest of their team.
Once the paseíllo is over, the matadores are ready to start their fights – one at a time and following a certain order. The senior matador goes first.
A bullfight is divided into three tercios or stages. Each stage lasts around 20 minutes and the matador, who is the one in charge of asking for a change of tercio, must respect the timings or the President will warn him.
The order is always the same:
Once the bull is dead, the fight is over and the matador is eventually rewarded if his faena was exceptional. The next matador enters the scene to fight the following bull. The same sequence goes on until the sixth bull is dead.
Similarly to a regular one, a corrida de rejones is also divided into three stages.