With this bullfighting facts you will learn the basic things you should know about bullfights in Spain before attending one.
But before we start…
If you are interested in the current season, check the official dates of Madrid and Seville.
Are you planning to attend one? Make sure to get your tickets well in advance!
Basic bullfighting facts you need to know
- Bullfighting is a traditional event celebrated in Spain, Portugal, some parts of Southern France and some Latin American countries.
- Bullfighting is a cultural event, and is deeply tied to the Hispanic culture and identity. It’s not considered as a sport whatsoever. Therefore, bullfighting is not a competition but rather a highly ritualized event.
- In today’s bullfighting, the matadors are professionally trained to kill the bull.
- The duration of a regular corrida de toros ranges from 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 hours 30 minutes, depending if some sobreros (extra bulls) are needed (e.g. in case a bull is injured).
- At the beginning of each bullfight, or corrida, a parade called a paseíllo takes place. This parade involves the participants of the bullfight entering the arena and saluting the bullfight’s president.
- A corrida has three stages or tercios.
- The first one is called the tercio de varas. During this stage the bull enters the ring and is tested so the matador observes how it charges and how fierce it is. Two picadores mounted on horse then enter the ring and stab the bull’s neck when it charges. They do so to lower the bull’s head and to weaken him so the chances of goring the matador are lower.
- The second one is called the tercio de banderillas. During this stage three banderilleros try to stick a pair of banderillas into the shoulders of the bull. This in turn makes the bull fiercier but it also makes it weaker.
- The third one is called the tercio de muerte. During this stage the matador again enters the ring, carrying a sword and a red cape. He performs a series of passes, and attemps to kill the bull with his sword.
- The movement or the act of the matador while in the process of killing the bull is considered a form of an art and emotional connection to the audience through the bull.
- The average length of a faena is 10 minutes. In other words, the matador has only 10 minutes to kill the bull timed from the moment of the first pass.
- Because bullfighting is a dangerous activity, many toreros and matadores have been gored by the bull.
Interesting bullfighting facts
- There is a specific breed called toro de lidia or toro bravo (literally brave bull), bred for their aggressiveness. Unlike their domestic counterparts, they will always charge at a target.
- Every decision a matador makes is marked by tradition. For example, they all wear the elaborate uniforms known as trajes de luces made by only a few tailors, with the same embroidery, shirt, vest, jacket, and pink tights.
- There are about 50 bullfighting schools in Spain. There, students practice with each other, then with cows. They also learn the history of this unique event and values like effort, respect and patience.
- While bullfighting is strongly associated with masculinity and machismo, there are actually some female bullfighters, and have been since the early 20th century.
- One of the most famous female bullfighters is Conchita Cintrón. The Chilean fighter killed over 750 bulls during her illustrious career that spanned from 1936 to 1950.
- Cristina Sánchez fought in Madrid for the first time in 1993, and became a symbol of female bullfighters during the 1990s.
- Because of the violent nature of bullfighting it has begun to be prohibited in some countries. Many animal rights groups are fighting to put an end to bullfighting because it tortures the bulls and the horses that are used in the events.
- Some regions in Spain have gone so far as to ban it completely. Since 1991, it’s banned in the Canary Islands. And the same goes for Catalonia, as of 2012.
- The number of bullfights taking place around the world are declining each year because of public opposition.
Curious bullfighting facts
- Only a handful of toreros ever make it to the center stage in Spain. When they do, they enjoy celebrity status. Like aristocracy, they often come from famous families and marry into dynasties.
- The biggest bullring isn’t in Spain – it’s actually in Mexico City, Mexico. The bullring sits 41,262 spectators (vs. 23,798 spectators at Las Ventas in Madrid, Spain) and it’s officially called the Plaza de Toros Mexico, although aficionados know it as Plaza de Toros Monumental de Ciudad de México or La Monumental.
- Two of Spain’s most prestigious bullrings are in Andalucía.
- In Seville you will find the 18th-century La Maestranza seating approximately 12,000 people. It’s popularly known as the Catedral del Toreo (Cathedral of Bullfighting). La Maestranza has its most important bullfights during the Feria de Abril.
- The other one is the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, where Pedro Romero invented modern bullfighting in the 18th century. If you go in September for the Feria Goyesca, you will see matadores wearing period costume from the famous painter Francisco Goya era.
- Aficionados gather in bars dedicated to the practice to watch the latest bullfights, or even replays of old classics. These bars are often decorated with bull heads and photos of famous bullfights. They are a good place to get an insight into the practice and meet some true experts.
- Matadores wear a hat called montera. It looks like a wig and it should fit perfectly the matador‘s head.
- Using it is part of the protocol and superstition that revolves around bullfighting. You will see the matador wearing it during the paseíllo, the tercio de varas and the tercio de banderillas (ie. while he is using the capote).
- As soon as he starts to use the muleta in the tercio de muerte, he will take it with his hand and wave it to the audience or to the president. Then, he will throw it to the center of the bullring, where it will remain until the end of the faena. But bullfighters are extremely superstitious… If the montera falls upside down, it will bring them bad luck!
This article is part of a complete tutorial about bullfighting in Spain where you can read all the information you need to organize your road trip around the country.
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