The bullfight awards, or trofeos, indicate that the matador has achieved a successful fight (faena). They are very important for the matador because they are proof of their bravery and art while performing the fight.
In other words, they are social proof of their quality and know how. So this can result into more corridas for him during the season or the next one.
Are you planning to attend one? Make sure to get your tickets well in advance!
What are the bullfight awards?
Depending on how well the whole bullfight went, the matador might get an award or trofeo.
These are the bullfight awards in order of importance.
Vuelta al ruedo
To the matador
If the matador has performed a good fight, respecting the bravery of the bull but has failed in killing it just stabbing it once, the crowd can ask for a vuelta al ruedo or lap of honor. The President usually grants it.
To the bull
The President can also award the bull a vuelta al ruedo or lap of honor, with the crowd standing and applauding the animal as it is dragged around the arena, and then out of the ring.
In very rare cases where an animal displays exceptional qualities and bravery, it may be spared and allowed to return to the ranch as a breeding animal. This decision is considered an extraordinary success for the matador, as he has successfully showcased the bull’s qualities.
The arrastre lento (slow dragging) is nnother way to greet the death bull for his courage but less important than the vuelta al ruedo. Here, the dead bull is dragged slowly to give the audience the chance to clap for its behavior.
The matador can get one ear for a good fight, two ears for a better fight and for the perfect fight the bull’s ears and tail will be presented. In the past, they used to award hooves too, but this tradition has been abandoned.
The trofeos are cut off from the dead bull by the alguacilillo and presented to the matador or novillero who then takes one or two laps of honor of the ring. Usually people throw down flowers into the ring, or hats for him to touch and then throw back to them. I’ve even seen clothes (e.g. jackets, scarfs) thrown down – it’s a sign of appreciation and gratitude to the matador for providing such a good performance and entertaining the crowd in a very artistic way.
Salida a hombros
At the end of the corrida, while the band plays a pasodoble, the successful matador who got at least two ears is given the permission to leave the plaza carried on the shoulders of an admirer. It’s called salida a hombros (exit on shoulders), and in Spain, bullfighting experts consider it the highest recognition a torero can have.
The salida a hombros is done through the plaza’s most important gate – the Puerta Grande or Big Gate in Madrid, or the Puerta del Príncipe or Prince’s Gate in Seville, for instance.
When does the matador gets a bullfight award?
After the bull’s death the matador returns to the wooden fence to wash his hands and take some refreshment. A team of mules enters the arena to remove the bull from the ring to take it to the abattoir.
In the meantime, the crowd may be on its feet asking for an award. The level of art, elegance and perfection needed in order to obtain an award depends very much on the standard of each individual bullring. A performance that will be granted both ears and a tail in a small village might not even be worth a single ear in Madrid or Seville.
How is the matador awarded?
Throughout the bullfight, the crowd plays part in the show expressing its opinion.
However, at the end of the fight, the crowds plays an extremely important role when the President decides the bullfight awards. While the president of the fight makes all the decisions, he’s inevitably influenced by the crowd.
There are three ways in which the matador is awarded.
- The audience demands the matador to take a lap of victory around the arena. This is called dar la vuelta al ruedo.
- Eventually, if his faena and estocada was exceptional, the crowd can plead the President to award him one of the bull’s ears. The spectactors will do so by cheering and waving something (traditionally a white handkerchief but anything white goes now) at the President’s box. He will do so if at least half of the crowd is waving a white handkerchief.
- Once the first ear is granted, the crowd can keep pleading for the second one shouting “otra…, otra…” (“another one…, another one…”). The award of the second ear, whether or not the public continue to request it, and the tail (the highest trophy) is at the sole discretion of the President. The tail is sometimes awarded in minor events, but for example Las Ventas in Madrid has not seen one in over 50 years.
Not all bullfights end up awarding trophies
At the end of the day the bullfight is a lottery.
Ever the best matadores mixed with the best breeds of bull cannot guarantee a good fight. So not all matadores end their fight getting a trophy. As a matter of fact, it’s extremely difficult for them to be awarded since it’s the President who makes all the decisions.
Nevertheless, the crowd plays an important role as it can influence the President’s final decision.
But then again, it’s not always what’s going on in the bullring that’s important, it’s your own experience as you become part of it.
The atmosphere, the crowd, the colors and the music all combine to create a unique experience that you’ll never forget. And that’s regardless of whether you understood everything that was going on.
I’m sure you agree with me that this idea needs no further explanation.
This article is part of a complete tutorial about bullfighting in Spain where you can read all the information you need to make the most out of your experience.
Here is a complete summary of all the guide:
1. What is bullfighting?
2. How to watch a bullfight
3. Bullfighting festivals in Spain
4. How to buy your bullfight tickets
5. 7 Bullfight tips to make the most out of the experience
6. FAQ about bullfighting, Spain’s oldest tradition
7. Understanding Spanish bullfight rules
8. Who are the bullfight participants?
9. Spanish bull fight preliminaries
10. First Spanish bullfighting stage: tercio de varas
11. Second Spain bullfight stage: tercio de banderillas
12. Third Spain bullfighting stage: tercio de muerte
13. The bullfight awards
14. 27 Interesting and curious bullfighting facts
15. A brief history of bull fighting in Spain
16. Glossary of bullfighting terms