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A Bullfight in Spain

Traveling and living in Spain for a couple of years, I experienced many things new and different to me. Some were funny and some weren't.

The colosseum type arena.

The colosseum type arena.

US Military Stationed in Spain

When I was 22 I went with my husband to the Air Base at Torrejon, Spain. We lived there for 2 years and saw many interesting things. It was an incredible experience for me, a girl from California. My husband could speak more Spanish than I but I learned along the way.

Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor.

— Ernest Hemingway

Our Bullfight ticket stubs

Our Bullfight ticket stubs

Bull Fights

I didn’t realize back then what a controversial subject bullfighting was. But if you are in Spain and don’t see a bullfight have you actually visited Spain? Not back then apparently. We bought tickets and went all the way to Madrid (a 30-minute drive for us) to see the bullfights. For one, I had no idea it was an all-afternoon event. Then I had no idea that we would be sitting on stone benches like a huge coliseum. If I had known, I would have brought a pillow. There were vendors there renting pillows but my husband was too cheap to rent one.

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The First Matador

The first matador came out and was very impressive in his red and black garb and bright magenta capote (cape). Apparently, bulls are colorblind and it is the motion of the cape, not the color that prompts the bull to charge. They only used red in years gone by to hide the blood that splattered on it.

The matador promenaded around the ring and bowed and then they released the bull. A mighty and magnificent animal. The matador played with him for a while waving his cape and sidestepping each charge. The crowd yelled “Ole” and I joined in. Then the matador retrieved a couple of fluffy decorated poles with barbs on the end called banderilleros. As the bull charged the matador sidestepped him and plunged the barbed poles into his shoulders just above his heart. Then he did it again with two more barbed poles. It made the bull bleed visibly and I was so worried for the bull. My husband kept telling me that the bull wasn’t killed for nothing. Before the fight, a restaurant had already purchased the bull and would be later serving the steaks from this animal. Still, I don’t think I could eat something I looked in the eye earlier.

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I'm an animal rights activist because I believe we won't have a planet if we continue to behave toward other species the way we do.

— James Cromwell

Toying With The Animal

Now the matador played with the bull some more this time with a smaller red cape called a muleta and you could see he was tired but hurt and mad. Then the matador retrieved a sword. He walked around showing the sword to the audience for approval. This whole time his back was to the bull and I kind of wished the bull would charge him, but he didn’t. Turning his back on the bull is part of the taunting. Then the matador inched up to the bull and kissed him on the forehead, all the while the bull is heaving and bleeding. Then the matador played the cape dodging game a few more times, and finally as the bull passed he plunged the sword down between his shoulder blades and into his heart. The bull looked stunned and then dropped dead. The crowd cheered and I was sorry. All this took about 45 minutes. I thought, “Oh God, finally, it’s over.” But my husband said it wasn’t over yet. Two horsemen came out and attaching a rope to the bull’s tail, they dragged him in a huge circle around the stadium for all to see and cheer his bravery before dragging him out. Then two horsemen came in pulling a sort of long rake and trotted around the ring smoothing out the dirt and sawdust for the next event.

Gruesome. Don't watch if you are squeamish.

The Second Matador

Now a new matador came out wearing green and gold. He bowed like the first and then enter the bull. “Oh no,” I thought, “not again.” Sure enough, he did everything the first man did and ended it the same way.

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The Third Bull

The third matador entered and I was tired of this. You’ve seen one execution; you’ve seen them all. But this one was different. This bull was either stronger or the matador was less experienced, I don’t know which. First, he had trouble sticking the decorated banderilleros poles into the bull’s back. They kept falling back out. He tried again and out one fell again. Then when it came time for the sword, the matador plunged it into the bull and the bull didn’t die. He ran around a while and the sword actually wiggled out and fell in the dust. Now the crowd was cheering for the bull. Me too. “Viva el Toro.” I guess this was humiliating for the matador but that bull was awesome. The matador tried again plunging the sword all the way to the hilt and again he missed the heart and the bull didn’t die. “Viva el Toro.” I wanted the bull to live. I didn’t care what restaurant already purchased it. I was getting pretty excited that the bull would be pardoned until my husband pointed out that the bull had lost a lot of blood by now and if the matador had not killed him he would be disgraced. Now I’m pretty upset. I’m thinking the matador IS disgraced already. The crowd was still cheering for the bull and I wondered why. Because the bull had entertained them? Finally, the matador succeeded the third try with the sword and I had enough. I wanted to go. My husband said there were three more bulls coming. Not for me. I saw enough. Three hours of this was plenty for a lifetime.

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New Experience

Actually, I’m glad I went to one for the experience. But I’m also glad they have banned them now in many parts of the world including the USA and even Catalonia, Spain since 2012. Apparently, the Spanish Parliament is working to overturn the ban citing that it is a “traditional sport,” but the battle continues in parliament and not in the bullring. It was sort of an inhumane practice. Even if it was colorful and traditional, it wasn’t really sporting. The bull had no chance at all. The motions and the cape mesmerized him. He never saw the barbed poles or the sword coming.

In the Central Valley of California, bullfighting was outlawed in 1957 but the Portuguese still do a sort of bloodless sport of fighting bulls using poles with Velcro tips to attach to the bull’s shoulders during their holidays in May through October.

I’ve seen a few rodeos in the US in my day with the bull riders and the rodeo clowns that run out to distract the bull while a thrown rider escapes to safety. These rodeo clowns are bullfighters in a way taunting the bull and escaping by dodging and jumping into a barrel. It’s all very dangerous and people have been known to be killed. Is this cruelty to animals or not? Is it sport?

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Final Thoughts

Perhaps if the bull had taken Ferdinand’s stance and just sat down to smell the flowers he’d have been okay. And then again perhaps not. It seemed that he was doomed before he entered the ring. It all makes me glad I am a vegan now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on bullfights. Are you sorry they are gone from many parts of the world? Did you see one before? What are your thoughts on animal rights? Leave me a comment below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on November 08, 2020:

BRENDA ARLEDGE,

I was just 19 or 20 at the time and thought how beautiful the costumes were but then I saw what they did to the bull and the costumes weren't as nice anymore. It was an experience. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on November 08, 2020:

Denise,

Luckily I didn't see one in person. Although it was on the schedule, there was some kind of catastrophe that had our event canceled...it's been so long ago I don't remember exactly what had happened. It seems it might have been an earthquake that day.

I was only 17 over there with a group from my school's Spanish Class.

We did watch it on the television set. I thought it was so unfair.

Weakening the bull each time with those knife like poles in both sides of his head.

However we did witness one bull who succeeded in attacking the matador, so I am glad I was not there in person.

It amazes me how calm the locals seem to be...while I was sitting there scared out of my wits.

Enjoyed the read.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 27, 2020:

Dora Weithers,

It does ease the pain of it all to know they aren't just killing for the pleasure of killing but will be using the meat later. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 27, 2020:

William Kovacic,

I'm certainly glad you are back. Nice of you to stop by one your first days back. I understand computer problems, as I've had my fair share. We become very addicted to these devices, don't we? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 27, 2020:

Mary Norton,

Yes. There is so much blood. They say the bull doesn't feel the barbs, but I saw him flinch and I saw the blood. I'm not sure I can buy the "no feelings" talk. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 27, 2020:

Eric Dierker,

I was reading earlier about a bull rancher in Spain who inherited her ranch from her father and got all her income from raising bulls for the bullfights was suffering because of the coronavirus closing the bullfights this past year. She had to sell some of the bulls for meat for less than it cost her to raise them. She stated that she sold a bull for about 500 pesetas for meat but the bullfights would pay her 1600 for one bull. I knew that it takes 2 years for a bull to be mature enough to enter the ring, so that is a long time to be carrying your inventory. I feel for her. It seems everyone is suffering right now. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 27, 2020:

That part about buying the bull for meat is interesting! Thanks for sharing the experience!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 26, 2020:

Linda Crampton,

I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking so. I do hate to stomp on other people's traditions and cultures but this is pretty gruesome to watch. It's a train wreck. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 26, 2020:

MG Singh emge,

If you have ever seen an American Rodeo you know that there are bull riders. The bull tries to throw the rider off and the rider tries to stay on longer than 10 seconds. After he is off the bull will naturally try to chase the man and gore him. That's where the rodeo clowns come in. They do like the bullfighters do and try to attract the bull's attention away from the rider so he has time to get out of the arena. The clown then will jump into a barrel to keep from getting gored. The rodeo clown never kills the bull but only distracts him. Even that some people think is cruelty. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on October 25, 2020:

After a two-month run without a working computer, I´m finally back and have a lot of catching up to do. Glad I caught this one. I never realized the extent to which the bulls were tortured. I´d have to say, in my mind, it´s animal cruelty. But then again, that´s just me. Glad to be back!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 24, 2020:

Eric Caunca,

I didn't realize it was in the Phillipians as well. Thanks for the information. I'm glad it's banned as well. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 24, 2020:

Devika Primić,

Here in the states, there are cockfights (using fighting roosters) and dog fights but they are illegal and people who are caught are jailed. But it doesn't seem to stop them because people still pay to see such things. I don't understand it but it must appeal to some barbaric nature in people somehow. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 24, 2020:

Peggy Woods,

According to what I've read there are factions in Spain and elsewhere that are trying to reinstate the "sport" because of traditional considerations and tourism. Those factions are gaining ground. It's highly possible that it will come back because people love to watch death and destruction. Who knows why. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 24, 2020:

Bill Holland,

I have to equate it with watching the movie Titanic. We all know how it's going to end. The ship goes down and people you just met are going to die. Why is that so fascinating? If we knew that we could answer the mysteries of the universe. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 23, 2020:

Lynne Samuel,

It is a paradox, isn't it? On the one hand, I wanted to experience the culture but on the other, I was appalled by the cruelty of it. I also was amazed by how the audience was prepared to sit through 3 more matadors and bulls when I gave up and wanted to go home. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 23, 2020:

Lorna Lamon,

I am an animal lover too. I don't know why I wanted to see a bullfight except that I wanted to experience all of Spain while I was there. I can say that I did, didn't I? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 23, 2020:

John Hansen,

Even the Rodeo clowns are there because someone is riding a bull for sport. Is that sport? As far as I know, they don't kill the bull later... or do they? We need to rethink our priorities as humans. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 23, 2020:

Liz Westwood,

What amazed me were the Spaniards in the audience who brought whole families and children with a picnic lunch, blankets, and pillows as if they had watched this many times before and were settling in for a day of entertainment. Appalling. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 23, 2020:

Lora Hollings,

Wow, you had a lot to say. I must have struck a nerve with this story. The truth is that my mom bought a painting of a bullfight on velvet when I was a girl and I grew up looking at it. I was seeing the finely dressed matador and the art of it and not the brutality of it till I saw one in real life. I will never think of it as art again. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Blessings,

Denise

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 23, 2020:

I had been to Spain several times and went to see the arenas where the bullfights took place. I have never been to a bullfight, as I know I will not be able to take it.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 22, 2020:

Just some interesting thoughts. 2-3 rodeo bull riders die per year. A slew more jet brain injury of broken spines.

Matadors get gored quite often. But with modern technologies like on site doctors and ambulance very few die any more.

Most the bulls for either sport are bred for the particular skill. Some 100+ year lineages.

Bulls will in fact eat animals. (hard to believe) Small birds are not that uncommon.

I have not researched it much but there is data to show the Bull does not feel the pain we assume it does.

Again with expert medical advancements gorings and trampling deaths are quite rare in the Pomplona event.

Thanks for a fascinating article.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 21, 2020:

Thank you for sharing this article, Denise. I think that bullfights are horrible and that people should know what happens during them, as you have described. I went to Spain with a school group some years ago. We visited an empty bullring and were giving a tour, which was bad enough. I think bullfighting is cruel and should be banned, even in areas where it's a tradition.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 21, 2020:

Rosina S Khan,

I agree it is cruel. I appreciate your visit. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

MG Singh emge from Singapore on October 21, 2020:

This is a nice article and reminds me of the time I was in Spain and saw a bullfight, but that's many years back. In my view, it's a macho sport and needs nerves and skill.A different form of bullfighting used to take place in the Indian state of Goa but after 1947 it has been banned. I do feel killing Bulls is nothing to be proud of but I wonder whether they can have bullfighting without killing the bulls.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 21, 2020:

Ivana Divac,

I'm so glad to hear your thoughts about this sport. I was sure I was going to have many controversial comments, some for and some against this. I know that we kill animals for food, that there are slaughterhouses all around the country so people can have their steaks and pork chops, but this seemed so barbarous that I had to write about my feelings on it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Eric Caunca from Philippines on October 21, 2020:

The Philippines is one of the countries that colonized by Spain, they brought the culture of bullfighting in my country. Fortunately, it is banned today.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 21, 2020:

Denise I do not see this type of sport as a pleasure and to be entertained with such brutality. I am glad Bull fighting is finally coming to its end. The well-written hub is perfectly presented and a lot of detail of this fight.I have not watched a bull fight and have no intentions of witnessing these type of fights.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 21, 2020:

With my family, I once viewed a bullfight in Reynosa, Mexico. It was one of the cruelest things that I had ever seen, and I felt just like you did. I had no desire ever to see another one, and I am glad that they are being outlawed in various places.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

It would be brutal. It would make my stomach do flips. And it would be fascinating to watch. I'm glad I don't have the opportunity, but I understand the attraction to it.

Lynne Samuel from Malaysia on October 21, 2020:

I know many people thinks it's a barbaric and cruel sport, but if I ever find myself in an arena of bullfighting, I'd watch, all the while keeping my eyes partly covered. It's an interesting culture. But if Spain ever banned this sport, I'd fully support it.

Lorna Lamon on October 21, 2020:

Such a cruel sport and to think the torture of a beautiful animal is seen as entertainment. Spain is a beautiful country, and one I have visited many times, however, personally I think this so called tradition needs to be banned. Apart from the obvious cruelty to the bull many young matador's risk life and limb. Sadly quite a few of them are from poor backgrounds and are exploited in this way.

Each time I go out to feed our bull Rory I am in awe of his strength and character. He has such a gentle nature. Your article draws awareness to this abhorrent lack of humanity. Thank you for sharing.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on October 20, 2020:

Denise, I think bullfighting is barbaric and cruel and should be banned, even if a restaurant has paid for the bull beforehand.

Spain needs a new national sport if you ask me, and I would always be cheering for the bull anyway.

Rodeo clowns are the only bullfighters I appreciate or would go to see.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 20, 2020:

I tried to add to my comment that fortunately attitudes have changed a lot in recent years. Bullfighting is not so widely practiced in Spain as it used to be. Hopefully it will stop altogether. The museum at Seville serves as a reminder.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 20, 2020:

We have toured the bullfighting arenas in Ronda and Seville. I appreciate that bullfighting is a tradition in Spain, but it's not for me. I haven't been to a bullfight, so it was interesting to read about your experiences.

Lora Hollings on October 20, 2020:

Denise, I don't consider bullfights a sport. I don't think cruelty to animals can ever be regarded as a sport and those who call it culture are certainly not looking at it from the poor bull's perspective. Should cruelty ever be linked with culture?The bull is nothing but a victim of a pompous and conceited man parading around an arena trying to convince everyone of his so called bravery when, in fact, the bull with all of the banderilleros plunged in him has been drained of most his strength. Even before the bullfight, this animal is given drugs to subdue him. So, it certainly isn't a fair fight! And one has to ask himself, why would people want to see an animal slowly bled to death and then have a sword finish him off. Aren't humans more evolved than that? I think that this barbaric spectacle needs to be banned in all cities in Spain and in all other countries too. I think we all need to ask ourselves this question. Is it ever right to torment and take a life of a sentient being for our entertainment? Doesn't it diminish our humanity? As far as rodeos go, I think they should ban many of the very rough activities that involve animal suffering leading to broken backs and limbs such as calf roping! I don't go to rodeos either.

And I would like to recommend a beautiful movie made in1956 entitled "The Brave One." It tells the story of a Mexican boy who tries to save his beloved bull Gitano from a deadly duel against a champion matador. If you love the story of Ferdinand as I do, you will love this movie. This is a great article, Denise, that makes people think about our treatment of animals and their rights too!

Rosina S Khan on October 20, 2020:

Although the bullfight is a sport, I feel very much for the animal which is killed eventually by the matador. It is a cruel sport and should be banned, I think. Thanks for the marvelous share.

Ivana Divac from Serbia on October 20, 2020:

This is such a wonderful article. Spain is a magical country, every part of it is so full of life and passion. But, like you, I'm glad this particular sport is getting banned. I know many people have lost their source of income and things went bad for them, but in reality, the nature of the sport was very cruel. I always wondered is there a difference between watching a fight between a man and an animal, and watching two human beings fighting to the death in the same arena. Wiser people would probably say that it's not the same thing, but in both cases, there are participants who are not participating willingly, so there are some similarities. I also always thought that bullfighting is quite similar to hunting. There is a difference between hunting for food and survival and hunting for amusement, just like there is a difference between taking the plants to eat them, and destroying them for no reason at all. Animals never hunt for fun, and neither should people. There's a lot we could learn from animals. And there's still a lot of work to do for both human and animal rights. Sometimes, I think that maybe people have a more developed brain, but animals, perhaps, have more soul.

Anyways, this is one of the articles that really make people think. And this is probably the longest comment I've made on HubPages so far. Thank you for sharing this.