Seville - The Bull Fight

Tuesday 5 June 2012

We happened to arrive in Seville just as the Feria de Abril, their biggest festival, was coming to an end and right in the middle of the bull fighting season.  Given that we were in Spain and tickets were available, we decided to take part in this authentic Spanish tradition.

Almost immediately upon arriving in Seville, we made our way to the bullfighting ring to buy tickets.  Tickets are sold according to sun & shade - shade being the better and more expensive seats.  The South of Spain is known to get quite hot thus sitting in the sun would be uncomfortable and it would hamper your ability to see.  There are sun & shade seats meaning you would be in the sun for part of the fight and in the shade for another part and then of course, shade tickets which is what we opted for.  (If you are going to do something once in your life, we might as well do it all the way.)

The Plaza de Toros (the ring) is the oldest in Spain with construction beginning in 1749 and ending 1881.  It is located along the river and is one of the main landmarks in Seville.  As far as bullfighting is concerned, it's considered one of the most unforgiving rings in the world due to it's history and audience.

The atmosphere was exciting and vibrant.  People were selling cushions to sit on, small snacks and souvenirs all around the exterior of the ring.

Ready with my cushion and beer but completely oblivious as to what I was getting myself into!

Joe and I really knew nothing about bullfighting and we didn't have any time to do any researching in advance so we went in a bit blind.  As we watched people file into the ring and take their seats, we were surprised to see people dressed up, some women in full flamenco dress and men looking dapper in jackets and hair slicked.  (I did wonder if we had underdressed in our jeans.)

The event began with a dramatic entrance of the toreros (matadors), their assistants and men on horseback to trumpets.

For every bullfighting event, there are 3 toreros and each have 6 assistants to help them.  Each torero 'fights' 2 bulls.

The bullfight is a fairly ritualized event and each fight consists of 3 distinct parts all announced by trumpets.

The trumpets sound and the bull is let into the ring with cheers from the crowds.  This part is mainly dominated by the assistants waving their capes, challenging the bull, and seeking cover behind wooden barriers if the bull becomes too aggressive.  The matador stays back and observes the bull trying to pick up it's personality and how it moves.

Eventually, 2 men enter on horseback, the horses padded for protection, and the bull is goaded into charging the horse.  (This was one of my least favorite parts.)  The horses eyes are covered so it is completely blind as to what is happening.  The man on the horse holds a long lance and as the bull pushes up against the horse, the man stabs the bull in the large muscle on it's neck.  This continues until trumpets sound letting the horses leave the ring and making way for part 2.

The second stage requires 3 assistants each to stab the bull with flags in that same muscle on his neck causing it to lose a lot of blood and weaken.

When the 3 sets of flags have been stuck into the bull, trumpets sounds to mark the third and final stage of the fight.  The matador enters the ring and using his cape, provokes the bull into charging.

This part is actually quite a show.  The matador is flamboyant taking his stance against the bull and as he continues to get closer and closer to the bull and completing more and more passes he yells a deep "AH HA" and stalks off making a spectacle as to how he's tricking the bull.

After a series of passes, it's deemed time to kill the bull.  The matador holds a long sword behind his cape and when he decides the time is right, he pulls it out, positions it, and awaits the bull's charge.  If done correctly, the sword will enter quickly through the muscle on it's neck.  The assistants re-enter the ring, continuing to provoke the bull into charging until it finally collapses and dies.  The crowd jumps to it's feet, cheers loudly and the 2 horses enter the ring.  The bull is then dragged around the ring in one full circle before exiting and marking the end of the fight.

Each matador kills 2 bulls during the event resulting in 6 bulls dying by the end.  To be honest, after the first couple I kind of wondered what the point was - the bull stood no chance so what kind of fight was that?

 Then one matador struggled.

We watched him miss a step and bull threw him into the air.  His assistants rushed to distract the bull and he was given time to recover.  He re-entered the ring, visibly shaken, and tried again yet missed another step and found himself on the ground, the bull rolling him along.  Again, his assistants rushed to his aid.  Eventually, he succeeded and the fight ended and I was left wondering what was more terrifying - watching them kill the bull or potentially seeing someone get gored.

I left the bullfight feeling a bit conflicted.  I loved the dramatics - it was almost like watching a dance - however, was disturbed by the savagery of it all.

It was one of those things that we were glad we experienced but we certainly won't do it again!


  1. This is such in interesting experience. One I would do too given the chance. Brilliant photographs again, what camera are you using?

  2. Yeah, I dont really get it. Doing things for the sake of tradition is one thing but it seems so barbaric...

  3. wow so many colors! it all looks so big (for lack of a better word). i went to a 'bull fight' thing in mexico many years ago and it was the most rinky dink funny thing ever. but since i was the only non-mexican there, i basically was pampered by the families with free food and beer and it was quite nice ;)

  4. @Melissa - For now, I just have a little Canon Elph Point & Shoot but it did really capture the colours! This summer I'll be trying out my first DSLR.

  5. I almost didn't open this post, just due to the fact that I'm so skiddish towards anything where animals are hurt. I hated all of the post cards in spain that show bulls with spears sticking out of their backs, I know it's part of the culture, but I just feel the whole thing is unnecessary. And, if they really wanted to be fair, I feel that the human should have just as great a chance of dying as the bull. Horrible to say, but true ;)

    You guys are brave to have actually gone and witnessed it for yourself!


  6. I'm so jealous! I toured that ring a few years ago but I was in Sevilla too late for bullfighting season. I agree that it seems barbaric and unfair, but I've seen a torero get gored on TV and I can only imagine it would be even worse in person, so I'm glad you didn't have to see that! It's definitely an experience.

  7. this is crazy. i don't think i'd go to see a bull fight if i ever go to spain

  8. Wow! What an experience! I would love to go see that one day just to say I did. You can't be a true traveler without seeing the things that really define the country and I am sure that they take a ton of pride in bullfighting!

  9. Hey, same. All of my pictures are taken on a point and shoot. I am in the market for an upgrade shortly.

  10. oh my goodness, I don't think I could ever watch a bull fight!! It makes me way too sad :( I know. I'm one of THOSE girls. I'm just an animal lover, what can I say? Very cool that you got to experience it though!


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