The Spanish Language Blog

The encierro, the running of the bulls, is an activity that originated in Spain and is still popular in Spain today. During the encierro, a small group of bulls are let loose on a cordoned off route through the (usually) narrow streets of the city. The remarkable thing about this is that a group of (often young) people run in front of the bulls. This article is about the San Fermín festivities of Pamplona, where bull running is the main event.

  • The whole event revolves around only one thing: the running of the bulls. And this happens not just once, but every day for the entire fiesta.
  • It starts the night before when the bulls are brought from the corrales del gas to the corrales of Santo Domingo.
  • In addition, the night before the encierro, the bulls are separated from each other and people can watch them from a balcony.

The Bull Run

The encierro was originally created out of necessity. The bulls had to be transported to the bullring for the bullfights, and the only way to do this was to run the bulls through the streets. When at some point people started running in front of the bulls, this became an activity that came back every time. It became increasingly popular and eventually grew into a tradition. The first legal bull run was held in 1899, but it did not become internationally popular until the event was mentioned as "the feast of survival" in a novel by Ernest Hemingway.

The fiesta as it is known today is held in Pamplona every year from July 7 to 14. Every morning, when the church bell has struck 8 o'clock and 2 flares are shot into the air, about 6 bulls are let loose to make their way to the corrales of Santo Domingo, with a lot of brave gentlemen running ahead of them. Of course, the bulls do not let a few men get away with it and, as a result, as many as 200 to 300 are injured each year. Most injuries are caused by falls and so are not serious. The narrow, bumpy streets do not make it easy for the men, but the bulls are also often surprised by a sharp turn. Falls are inevitable.

The movement of the bulls from the corrales del gas to the corrales of Santo Domingo, the place where it all begins each morning, also has a name: the encierrillo. The encierrillo takes place the evening before the encierro. A distance of 440 meters is covered in silence and is almost as popular as the encierro itself. To see this move, you need a special pass that can only be obtained at City Hall. For people who do not like the violence of the encierro, the encierrillo is a perfect substitute to still enjoy this special event.

A small part of the tradition surrounding the bull run is the apartado: segregation. The night before the encierro, the bulls are separated and spectators and fans can watch the bulls from the balcony. The bulls are viewed and judged based on appearance and characteristics. Probably this is to assess the animal during the run, or else just interest. It is part of tradition, so fun to participate in.

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