Oct 24, 2011
The most popular Encierro, or running of the bulls, is the Pamplona Bull Run. This takes place annually from July 6-14 at the San Fermin Festival. Beginning on the second day of the festival, there is a bull run every morning for the remainder of the festival. Each evening, the bulls from the running are then used in a bull fight.
The bull running began after the San Fermin festival was already taking place. While the bulls that were to be used during that evening’s bullfight where guided through the streets into the bull pens, people would run along with the bulls. Over time, this turned into trying to run in front of the bulls. As popularity increased, it turned into a highlight for the people of Spain.
There are some qualifications that a person must meet in order to participate in the running of the bulls. No one under the age of 18 is permitted to participate in the run. People who are tired or have been drinking alcohol are also not permitted to participate. Most of the participants are usually younger males, but females are also permitted to participate. Runners usually dress in a white shirt and trousers with a red waistband and neckerchief. They often carry a newspaper in one hand that they can use as a distraction for the bulls.
Wooden barricades are set up along the route of the run where there is room. In some areas, buildings are used as the barricades. These wooden barricades have spaces that are big enough for a person to slip through, but not a bull. When runners get tired or feel they are too close to danger, they can slip through these barricades anywhere along the route.
Before the running begins, all of the runners sing a benediction where they ask Saint Fermin to guide them and give them his blessing. They sing it both in Spanish and Basque.
A firework is set off at 8:00 am to alert everyone that the bulls are being released. A second firework goes off to notify everyone that all of the bulls have been released (usually about 6 bulls and 6 oxen). A third and final firework is set off once all of the bulls have reached the bullring and are in their pens.
The length of the run is 826 meters, or about a half mile. The average speed of the herd is 24 km/h, or 15 mph. The length between the first and last firework is only about 4 minutes.
If a runner happens to trip or fall, they are told to stay on the ground and cover their heads to avoid getting gored by the bulls.
Watching the Running
Watching the Running of the Bulls is an extremely popular attraction. Even though the run does not begin until 8:00 am, in order to get a good viewing spot, a person has to arrive between 5:30 and 6:30 in the morning.
Many people who live along the running route rent out their balconies to spectators to get a better view of the run. Two national television channels also broadcast the event live.
Around 200 to 300 people are injured during the run each year. However, most of these are minor injuries due to falls. Since 1910, 16 people have been killed.