The bullfight participants are always the same and you’ wi’ll easily recognize them by looking at how they are dressed. Each one plays a role during the corrida and all must be part of the paseíllo, a parade that takes place at the beginning of the spectacle in which the participants are presented to the crowd.
Are you planning to attend one? Make sure to get your tickets well in advance!
The only difference may occur if instead of a corrida a pie (on foot), you attend a corrida de rejones (on horseback). In this case, the toreros are replaced by rejoneadores.
Who are the bullfight participants?
The list of bullfight participants is incredibly long.
To help you out recognize everyone, here’s a detail of all the people you will see if you attend a bullfight.
The matador (“killer” in English), or commonly designated torero in Spain, is the main performer in a bullfight.
You’ll easily recognize him because he’s the only allowed to wear a traje de luces embroidered in gold. He may decide to wear a different color braiding (e.g. silver or black), but he’ll be usually wearing gold.
He’s responsible of leading the bull’s charges and finally killing it in an aesthetic way. A good matador is considered both an athlete and an artist showing great agility, grace, and coordination.
If the matador is a particularly skillful banderillero before becoming a matador, he will place the banderillas himself.
A matador goes through several education stages, and most of it relies on practice. First he has to become novillero, fighting novillos or young bulls. Once he is experienced enough, he performs a special corrida called la toma de alternativa, in which he graduates and becomes a matador.
Each matador has a fighting team made up of:
- Two picadores and their horses.
- Three banderilleros.
- A mozo de espadas (also known as mozo de estoques).
These bullfight participants help the matador in different situations during the show.
They are probably the most important allies of the matador, and they only perform during the first stage of the fight, the tercio de varas.
Using the pica, the picador tests the bull’s strength and provides clues to the matador about the side the bull is favoring.
After provoking it, the bull will charge against the picador and its horse. Right before the bull’s horns contact the horse’s peto, the picador lances the bull at the back of its neck. This is performed to lower its head and to prevent a cogida (gore) during the faena.
The wound and consequent loss of blood gradually weakens the bull and prepares it for the next tercio.
The picador is the only other person in the bullring that can wear gold braid on his clothing. And this is in recognition of his former, more superior, role in the past when bullfighting on horseback was a “nobility only” sport.
These toreros basically aid the matador throughout the fight.
First of all, as the bull enters the ring, they wave their capotes to attract the animal while the matador assesses the bull’s temperament.
They can also help the matador positioning the bull during the tercio de varas, to better face the picador.
They are the subalternos that plant banderillas (a couple of colored barbed darts) in the top of the bull’s shoulder during the second stage, the tercio de banderillas. They must do so as close to the top as possible and in an elegant manner. The audience will judge their form, skills and bravery.
Apart from this important task, those not holding the banderillas are also in charge of the lidia, moving and positioning the bull where the banderillero will be more comfortable to face it.
Finally, if the matador does not kill the bull after the tercio de muerte, one of them has to kill it using the puntilla, which is a small dagger. He is called the puntillero or cachetero.
Their traje de luces are always embroidered in silver or black.
Mozo de espadas
The mozo de espadas or mozo de estoques is the sword-bearer.
He assists the matador during the bullfight from the alley, providing him with all the equipment he needs (capotes, muletas, montera, estoque simulado, estoque de acero and the verduguillo or descabello).
Prior to the bullfight celebration he dresses the matador and is in charge of the organization of all the equipment.
In addition to this, he takes part in the sorteo (bull lottery) and draws lots on behalf of the matador. Why? Well, most of the matadores consider it bad luck to do it themselves.
The bullfighter usually counts on the mozo de espadas to be his personal assistant and an unconditional man, so they are usually the brother or any other relative, as well as a close friend of the matador.
They are responsible for helping the picador to ride the horse, and aid him if he happens to fall down because of a bull’s charge.
The origin of this peculiar name comes from a circus spectacle that took place in the 1850s in Madrid in which a group of trained monkeys performed a series of skilled activities. The monkeys wore red shirts and the crowd started to compare them with the people at the bullring that helped the picadores.
They wear a red shirt and dark blue trousers.
They manage the mules that bring the dead bulls out of the arena. They wear a white shirt and dark blue trousers.
They are in charge of cleaning and keeping the sand in good condition. They wear a green shirt and dark blue trousers.
He’s the bullpen keeper. His function is to open the to the toriles (bullpen), goad the bull into the open and distribute the banderillas to the banderilleros.
They perform the old tradition of clearing the bullring, riding around the arena.
Back in the time this clearance was necessary when bullrings didn’t exist and bullfights took place in public places. Masses used to invade the space and the alguacilillos (bailiffs) backed people off so that the bullfight could start.
Moreover, they serve as the intermediaries between the Presidente and the matador, and they enforce the his orders (according to the rules, of course):
- Make sure that the picadores ride in an anti-clockwise direction around the bullring.
- Prevent the matador or the banderilleros from standing on the right side of the picador.
They dress in the style of the bailiffs of the time of King Felipe IV.
Their clothing is black and is composed of white golilla, which is an ornament on the neck, smooth in the time of King Felipe IV or curly in the time of King Felipe III. Their cape is short and the hat is adorned with feathers, which in Las Ventas (Madrid) are red and yellow, and red and white in La Maestranza (Seville). The footwear consists of leather boots and gaiters.
The rejoneador is the main performer at a corrida de rejones. He fights the bull on horseback and his objective is to demonstrate to the crowd his skill and nerve controlling both the bull and the horse.
Actually, the rejoneador uses several horses depending on the stage of the corrida and how tired they are.
Don’t confuse them with picadores.
The president has the highest authority in the bullring and is responsible for making sure that bullfighting legislation is followed and for making sure that the bullfight runs correctly.
The president can be accompanied by a veterinary advisor and an artistic advisor, who is usually a retired bullfighter.
The paseíllo or bullfight participants’ opening parade
The paseíllo is a parade of all the bullfight participants in a corrida. It is the public presentation of the matadores and their team to the audience.
The paseíllo follows the same order before the first bullfight starts.
- The two alguacilillos, dressed in a 17th century costume including short black capes and curled brimmed felt hats, lead the parade riding their horses.
- Behind them are the three matadores (or rejoneadores if it is a bullfight on horseback), placed according to their seniority. If you face them, the senior one will be on your right, the least experienced in the middle and the intermediate on your left. The seniority is determined by the date each of them celebrated the alternativa or graduation ceremony.
- Then, the next row is occupied by the three banderilleros of the first matador followed by another other two rows corresponding to the second and third matadores’ teams. Here the seniority is also respected.
- Behind them, forming pairs and also in order, are the picadores riding their horses.
- Finally, the mozos de caballos and the areneros, followed by the mules and the mulilleros are at the end of the parade.
All must salute the President hosting the fight. The President plays a very important role because he’s in charge of the bullfight timings. He’s also the ultimate responsible when it comes to give the awards to the matador.
Once the paseíllo is over, a member of the music band blows a bugle to announce the first fight. This person also blows it to signal the end of each stage, and the end of the fight. The President then waves a white handkerchief to signal the entrance of the first bull into the ring.
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