Bullfighting is a physical contest that generally involves humans attempting to publicly subdue, immobilise, or kill a bull, usually according to a set of rules, guidelines, or cultural expectations. Although people commonly think of Spanish-style bullfighting as representative of bullfighting, there are many different forms and varieties in various locations around the world. Some forms involve dancing around or over a cow or bull, or attempting to grasp an object from the animal.
- Comic bullfighting
- Toro embolado
- Course camarguaise course libre
- Course landaise
- Tamil Nadu India
- United States
- Bull wrestling bull against bull
- Cultural aspects
- Women in bullfighting
- Animal welfare
- Media prohibitions
- Declaration as Cultural Patrimony
- Pre 20th century
- 20th century onwards
- Costa Rica
Bullfighting is a traditional spectacle of many countries including Spain, Portugal, parts of southern France, India and Tanzania, and some Latin American countries (Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru). While some forms are sometimes considered to be a blood sport, in some countries, for example Spain, it is defined as an art form or cultural event and relevant regulatory frameworks which assimilate it to other cultural events and heritage.
In some locations, a particular breed of cattle, the Spanish Fighting Bull, is used for bullfighting. These bulls must be bred in large ranches, and in conditions as similar as possible to the way they would behave in the wild.
There are many historic fighting venues in the Iberian Peninsula, France and Latin America. The largest venue of its kind is the Plaza México in central Mexico City, which seats 48,000 people, and the oldest are the Plazas of Béjar and Ronda, in the Spanish provinces of Salamanca and Málaga.
Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice in Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean region. The first recorded bullfight may be the Epic of Gilgamesh, which describes a scene in which Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought and killed the Bull of Heaven ("The Bull seemed indestructible, for hours they fought, till Gilgamesh dancing in front of the Bull, lured it with his tunic and bright weapons, and Enkidu thrust his sword, deep into the Bull's neck, and killed it"). Bull leaping was portrayed in Crete, and myths related to bulls throughout Greece. The killing of the sacred bull (tauroctony) is the essential central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. The oldest representation of what seems to be a man facing a bull is on the Celtiberian tombstone from Clunia and the cave painting El toro de hachos, both found in Spain.
Bullfighting is often linked to Rome, where many human-versus-animal events were held as competition and entertainment, the Venationes. These hunting games spread to Africa, Europe and Asia during Roman times. There are also theories that it was introduced into Hispania by the Emperor Claudius, as a substitute for gladiators, when he instituted a short-lived ban on gladiatorial combat. The latter theory was supported by Robert Graves (picadors are related to warriors who wielded the javelin, but their role in the contest is now a minor one limited to "preparing" the bull for the matador.) Spanish colonists took the practice of breeding cattle and bullfighting to the American colonies, the Pacific and Asia. In the 19th century, areas of southern and southwestern France adopted bullfighting, developing their own distinctive form.
Religious festivities and royal weddings were celebrated by fights in the local plaza, where noblemen would ride competing for royal favor, and the populace enjoyed the excitement. In the Middle Ages across Europe, knights would joust in competitions on horseback. In Spain, they began to fight bulls.
In medieval Spain bullfighting was considered a noble sport and reserved to the rich, who could afford to supply and train their animals. The bull was released into a closed arena where a single fighter on horseback was armed with a lance. This spectacle was said to be enjoyed by Charlemagne, Alfonso X the Wise and the Almohad caliphs, among others. The greatest Spanish performer of this art is said to have been El Cid knight. According chronicle of the time, in 1128 "... when Alfonso VII of León and Castile married Berengaria of Barcelona daughter of Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona at Saldaña among other celebrations, there were also bullfights."
Francisco Romero, from Ronda, Spain, is generally regarded as having been the first to introduce the practice of fighting bulls on foot around 1726, using the muleta in the last stage of the fight and an estoque to kill the bull. This type of fighting drew more attention from the crowds. Thus the modern corrida, or fight, began to take form, as riding noblemen were replaced by commoners on foot. This new style prompted the construction of dedicated bullrings, initially square, like the Plaza de Armas, and later round, to discourage the cornering of the action.
The modern style of Spanish bullfighting is credited to Juan Belmonte, generally considered the greatest matador of all time. Belmonte introduced a daring and revolutionary style, in which he stayed within a few centimetres of the bull throughout the fight. Although extremely dangerous (Belmonte was gored on many occasions), his style is still seen by most matadors as the ideal to be emulated.
Originally, at least five distinct regional styles of bullfighting were practised in southwestern Europe: Andalusia, Aragon–Navarre, Alentejo, Camargue, Aquitaine. Over time, these have evolved more or less into standardized national forms mentioned below. The "classic" style of bullfight, in which the bull is killed, is the form practiced in Spain and many Latin American countries.
Spanish-style bullfighting is called corrida de toros (literally "running of bulls") or la fiesta ("the festival"). In the traditional corrida, three matadores each fight two bulls, each of which is between four and six years old and weighs no less than 460 kg (1,014 lb) Each matador has six assistants—two picadores ("lancers on horseback") mounted on horseback, three banderilleros – who along with the matadors are collectively known as toreros ("bullfighters") – and a mozo de espadas ("sword page"). Collectively they comprise a cuadrilla ("entourage"). In Spanish the more general torero is used for the lead fighter, and only when needed to distinguish a man is the full title matador de toros used; in English, "matador" is generally used for the bullfighter.
The modern corrida is highly ritualized, with three distinct stages or tercios ("thirds"); the start of each being announced by a bugle sound. The participants enter the arena in a parade, called the paseíllo, to salute the presiding dignitary, accompanied by band music. Torero costumes are inspired by 17th-century Andalusian clothing, and matadores are easily distinguished by the gold of their traje de luces ("suit of lights"), as opposed to the lesser banderilleros, who are also known as toreros de plata ("bullfighters of silver").
Tercio de Varas
The bull is released into the ring, where he is tested for ferocity by the matador and banderilleros with the magenta and gold capote ("cape"). This is the first stage, the tercio de varas ("the lancing third"). The matador confronts the bull with the capote, performing a series of passes and observing the behavior and quirks of the bull.
Next, a picador enters the arena on horseback armed with a vara (lance). To protect the horse from the bull's horns, the animal wears a protective, padded covering called peto. Prior to 1930, the horses did not wear any protection. Often the bull would disembowel the horse during this stage. Until the use of protection was instituted, the number of horses killed during a fiesta generally exceeded the number of bulls killed.
At this point, the picador stabs just behind the morrillo, a mound of muscle on the fighting bull's neck, weakening the neck muscles and leading to the animal's first loss of blood. The manner in which the bull charges the horse provides important clues to the matador about which side the bull favors. If the picador is successful, the bull will hold its head and horns slightly lower during the following stages of the fight. This ultimately enables the matador to perform the killing thrust later in the performance. The encounter with the picador often fundamentally changes the behaviour of a bull; distracted and unengaging bulls will become more focused and stay on a single target instead of charging at everything that moves.
Tercio de Banderillas
In the next stage, the tercio de banderillas ("the third of banderillas"), each of the three banderilleros attempts to plant two banderillas, sharp barbed sticks, into the bull's shoulders. These anger and agitate, but further weaken, the bull. He tires from his attacks on the horse and the injuries from the lance. Sometimes a matador will stab his own banderillas into the bull. If so, he usually embellishes this part of his performance and employs more varied manoeuvres than the standard al cuarteo method commonly used by banderilleros.
Tercio de Muerte
In the final stage, the tercio de muerte ("the third of death"), the matador re-enters the ring alone with a small red cape, or muleta, and a sword. It is a common misconception that the color red is supposed to anger the bull; the animals are colorblind. The cape is thought to be red to mask the bull's blood, although the color is now a matter of tradition. The matador uses his cape to attract the bull in a series of passes, which serve the dual purpose of wearing the animal down for the kill and creating an interesting display, or faena. He may also demonstrate his domination of the bull by caping and bringing it especially close to his body. The faena refers to the entire performance with the cape (muleta).
It is usually broken down into tandas, or "series", of passes. The series (tanda) ends with a final series of passes in which the matador, using the cape, tries to maneuver the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. The sword is called estoque, and the act of thrusting the sword is called an estocada. During the initial series, while the matador in part is performing for the crowd, he uses a fake sword (estoque simulado). This is made of wood or aluminum, making it lighter and much easier to handle. The estoque de verdad (real sword) is made out of steel. At the end of the tercio de muerte, when the matador has finished his faena, he will change swords to take up the steel one. He performs the estocada and kills the bull with a pierce through the heart, if all goes according to plan. Many times the bull does not get pierced through the heart during the estocada initially, and repeated efforts must be made to bring the bull down and end his life.
If the matador has performed particularly well, the crowd may petition the president by waving white handkerchiefs to award the matador an ear of the bull. If his performance was exceptional, the president will award two ears. In certain more rural rings, the practice includes an award of the bull's tail. Very rarely, if the public or the matador believe that the bull has fought extremely bravely, the event's president may be petitioned to grant the bull a pardon (indulto). If the indulto is granted, the bull's life is spared; it leaves the ring alive and is returned to its home ranch. There the bull becomes a stud for the rest of his life.
Recortes, a style of bullfighting practiced in Navarre, La Rioja, north of Castile and Valencia, has been much less popular than the traditional corridas. But recortes have undergone a revival in Spain and are sometimes broadcast on TV.
This style was common in the early 19th century. Etchings by painter Francisco de Goya depict these events.
Recortes claims to differ from a corrida in the following ways:
Since horses are not used, and performers are not professionals, recortes are less costly to produce.
Comical spectacles based on bullfighting, called espectáculos cómico-taurinos or charlotadas, are still popular in Spain and Mexico. Troupes include El empastre or El bombero torero.
An encierro or running of the bulls is an activity related to a bullfighting fiesta. Before the events that are held in the ring, people (usually young men) run in front of a small group of bulls that have been let loose, on a course of a sectioned-off subset of a town's streets.
A toro embolado (in Spanish), bou embolat (in Catalan), roughly meaning "bull with balls", is a festive activity held at night and typical of many towns in Spain (mainly in the Valencian Community and Southern Catalonia). Balls of flammable material are attached to a bull's horns. The balls are lit and the bull is set free in the streets at night; participants dodge the bull when it comes close. It can be considered a variant of an encierro (correbous in Catalan). This activity is held in a number of Spanish towns during their local festivals. In recent years, animal welfare activists have tried to stop the practice because of cruelty to the animal.
Most Portuguese bullfights are held in two phases: the spectacle of the cavaleiro, and the pega. In the cavaleiro, a horseman on a Portuguese Lusitano horse (specially trained for the fights) fights the bull from horseback. The purpose of this fight is to stab three or four bandeiras (small javelins) into the back of the bull.
In the second stage, called the pega ("holding"), the forcados, a group of eight men, challenge the bull directly without any protection or weapon of defence. The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a pega de cara or pega de caras (face grab). The front man secures the animal's head and is quickly aided by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until he is subdued. Forcados are dressed in a traditional costume of damask or velvet, with long knitted hats as worn by the campinos (bull headers) from Ribatejo.
The bull is not killed in the ring and, at the end of the corrida, leading oxen are let into the arena and two campinos on foot herd the bull among them back to its pen. The bull is usually killed out of sight of the audience by a professional butcher. It can happen that some bulls, after an exceptional performance, are healed, released to pasture until the end of their days and used for breeding.
In the Portuguese Azores islands, there is a form of bullfighting called tourada à corda, in which a bull is led on a rope along a street, while players taunt and dodge the bull, who is not killed during or after the fight, but returned to pasture and used in later events.
Since the 19th century, Spanish-style corridas have been increasingly popular in Southern France where they enjoy legal protection in areas where there is an uninterrupted tradition of such bull fights, particularly during holidays such as Whitsun or Easter. Among France's most important venues for bullfighting are the ancient Roman arenas of Nîmes and Arles, although there are bull rings across the South from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coasts. Bullfights of this kind follow the Spanish tradition and even Spanish words are used for all Bullfighting related terms. Minor cosmetic differences exist such as music. This is not to be confused with the bloodless bullfights referred to below which are indigenous to France.
Course camarguaise (course libre)
A more indigenous genre of bullfighting is widely common in the Provence and Languedoc areas, and is known alternately as "course libre" or "course camarguaise". This is a bloodless spectacle (for the bulls) in which the objective is to snatch a rosette from the head of a young bull. The participants, or raseteurs, begin training in their early teens against young bulls from the Camargue region of Provence before graduating to regular contests held principally in Arles and Nîmes but also in other Provençal and Languedoc towns and villages. Before the course, an abrivado—a "running" of the bulls in the streets—takes place, in which young men compete to outrun the charging bulls. The course itself takes place in a small (often portable) arena erected in a town square. For a period of about 15–20 minutes, the raseteurs compete to snatch rosettes (cocarde) tied between the bulls' horns. They do not take the rosette with their bare hands but with a claw-shaped metal instrument called a raset or crochet (hook) in their hands, hence their name. Afterwards, the bulls are herded back to their pen by gardians (Camarguais cowboys) in a bandido, amidst a great deal of ceremony. The stars of these spectacles are the bulls, who get top billing and stand to gain fame and statues in their honor, and lucrative product endorsement contracts.
Another type of French 'bullfighting' is the "course landaise", in which cows are used instead of bulls. This is a competition between teams named cuadrillas, which belong to certain breeding estates. A cuadrilla is made up of a teneur de corde, an entraîneur, a sauteur, and six écarteurs. The cows are brought to the arena in crates and then taken out in order. The teneur de corde controls the dangling rope attached to the cow's horns and the entraîneur positions the cow to face and attack the player. The écarteurs will try, at the last possible moment, to dodge around the cow and the sauteur will leap over it. Each team aims to complete a set of at least one hundred dodges and eight leaps. This is the main scheme of the "classic" form, the course landaise formelle. However, different rules may be applied in some competitions. For example, competitions for Coupe Jeannot Lafittau are arranged with cows without ropes.
At one point, it resulted in so many fatalities that the French government tried to ban it, but had to back down in the face of local opposition. The bulls themselves are generally fairly small, much less imposing than the adult bulls employed in the corrida. Nonetheless, the bulls remain dangerous due to their mobility and vertically formed horns. Participants and spectators share the risk; it is not unknown for angry bulls to smash their way through barriers and charge the surrounding crowd of spectators. The course landaise is not seen as a dangerous sport by many, but écarteur Jean-Pierre Rachou died in 2003 when a bull's horn tore his femoral artery.
Tamil Nadu (India)
Jallikattu is a traditional spectacle played in Tamil Nadu, India as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day. Bos indicus bulls are bred specifically for the sporting event and a specific breed of cattle bred for this purpose is known as "Jellicut". During jallikattu, a bull is released into a group of people, and participants attempt to grab the bull's hump and hold onto it for a determined distance, length of time, or with the goal of taking a pack of money tied to the bull's horns.
Freestyle bullfighting is a style of bullfighting developed in American rodeo. The style was developed by the rodeo clowns who protect bull riders from being trampled or gored by an angry bull. Freestyle bullfighting is a 70-second competition in which the bullfighter (rodeo clown) avoids the bull by means of dodging, jumping and use of a barrel. Competitions are organized in the US as the "World" Bullfighting Championship (WBC) and the Dickies National Bullfighting Championship under auspices of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR).
A distinct type of bloodless bullfighting is practised in California's Central Valley. In this historically Portuguese-settled area, a form of bullfight has developed in which the bull is taunted by a matador, but the lances are tipped with velcro and aimed at velcro patches secured to the bull's shoulder. Fights occur from May through October around traditional Portuguese holidays.
Bullfighting was introduced by the Portuguese to Zanzibar and to Pemba Island, in modern Tanzania, where it is known as mchezo wa ngombe. Similar to the Portuguese Azorean tourada a corda, the bull is restrained by a rope, generally neither bull nor player is harmed, and the bull is not killed at the end of the fight.
Bull wrestling (bull against bull)
Bull wrestling, or bull fighting, is a bloodsport between bulls found in some parts of the world, such as in India (known as dhirio), Japan (tōgyū), Balkans (korida), Turkey (boğa güreşi, literally "bull wrestling"), Persian Gulf, and Southeast Asia, in which the bulls lock horns (under varied rules). This form of bullfighting is also practiced in western Kenya.
Spanish-style bullfighting is normally fatal for the bull, but it is also dangerous for the matador. Matadors are usually gored every season, with picadors and banderilleros being gored less often. With the discovery of antibiotics and advances in surgical techniques, fatalities are now rare, although over the past three centuries 534 professional bullfighters have died in the ring or from injuries sustained there, most recently matador Victor Barrio on 10 July 2016, whose death was broadcast on live TV.
Some matadors, notably Juan Belmonte, have been seriously gored many times: according to Ernest Hemingway, Belmonte's legs were marred by many ugly scars. A special type of surgeon has developed, in Spain and elsewhere, to treat cornadas, or horn-wounds.
The bullring has a chapel where a matador can pray before the corrida, and where a priest can be found in case a sacrament is needed. The most relevant sacrament is now called "Anointing of the Sick"; it was formerly known as "Extreme Unction", or the "Last Rites".
The media often reports the more horrific of bullfighting injuries, such as the September 2011 goring of matador Juan José Padilla's head by a bull in Zaragoza, resulting in the loss of his left eye, use of his right ear, and facial paralysis. He returned to bullfighting five months later with an eyepatch, multiple titanium plates in his skull, and the nickname 'The Pirate'.
Many supporters of bullfighting regard it as a deeply ingrained, integral part of their national cultures; in Spain it is called "La fiesta nacional", literally "the national festival". The aesthetic of bullfighting is based on the interaction of the man and the bull. Rather than a competitive sport, the bullfight is more of a ritual of ancient origin, which is judged by aficionados based on artistic impression and command. Ernest Hemingway said of it in his 1932 non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon: "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 honour." Bullfighting is seen as a symbol of Spanish culture.
The bullfight is regarded as a demonstration of style, technique and courage by its participants and as a demonstration of cruelty and cowardice by its critics. While there is usually no doubt about the outcome, the bull is not viewed by bullfighting supporters as a sacrificial victim — it is instead seen by the audience as a worthy adversary, deserving of respect in its own right.
Those who oppose bullfighting maintain that the practice is a cowardly, sadistic tradition of torturing, humiliating and killing a bull amidst pomp and pageantry. Supporters of bullfights, called "aficionados", claim they respect the bulls, that the bulls live better than other cattle, and that bullfighting is a grand tradition; a form of art important to their culture.
Women in bullfighting
Conchita Cintron was a Peruvian female bullfighter, perhaps the most famous in the history of bullfighting.
Patricia McCormick began bullfighting as a professional Matadora in January 1952, and was the first American to do so. Bette Ford was the first American woman to fight on foot in the Plaza México, the world's largest bullfight arena.
In 1974, Angela Hernandez (also known as Angela Hernandez Gomez and just Angela), of Spain, won a case in the Spanish Supreme Court allowing women to be bullfighters in Spain; a prohibition against women doing so was put in place in Spain in 1908. Cristina Sánchez de Pablos, of Spain, was one of the first female bullfighters to gain prominence; she debuted as a bullfighter in Madrid on 13 February 1993.
In Spain, opposition to bullfighting is referred to as the antitaurino movement. Supporters of a ban on bullfighting remain a minority in Spain. About 30% of Spaniards actively follow bullfighting in Spain. Despite its slow decrease in popularity among younger generations, it remains a widespread cultural activity with millions of followers throughout the country.
Many people, including animal rights and animal welfare advocates, consider this is a cruel, barbaric blood sport in which the bull suffers severe stress, and may ultimately end in a slow, torturous death. A number of animal rights and animal welfare groups undertake anti-bullfighting actions in Spain and other countries.
RSPCA assistant director for public affairs, David Bowles, said: "The RSPCA is strongly opposed to bullfighting. It is an inhumane and outdated practice that continues to lose support, including from those living in the countries where this takes place such as Spain, Portugal and France."
Bullfighting guide The Bulletpoint Bullfight warns that bullfighting is "not for the squeamish", advising spectators to "Be prepared for blood." The guide details prolonged and profuse bleeding caused by horse-mounted lancers; the charging by the bull of a blindfolded, armored horse who is "sometimes doped up, and unaware of the proximity of the bull"; the placing of barbed darts by banderilleros; followed by the matador's fatal sword thrust. The guide stresses that these procedures are a normal part of bullfighting and that death is rarely instantaneous. The guide further warns those attending bullfights to "Be prepared to witness various failed attempts at killing the animal before it lies down."
Others, such as author Alexander Fiske-Harrison have argued that there are mitigating circumstances to this: "In terms of animal welfare, the fighting bull lives four to six years whereas the meat cow lives one to two. What is more, it doesn’t just live in the sense of existing, it lives a full and natural life. Those years are spent free roaming in the dehesa, the lightly wooded natural pastureland which is the residue of the ancient forests of Spain. It is a rural idyll, although with the modern additions of full veterinary care and an absence of predators big enough to threaten evolution's answer to a main battle tank." Other arguments include that the death of animals in slaughterhouses is very often worse than the death in the ring, and that both types of animal die for entertainment since humans do not need to consume meat, eating it instead for taste (bulls enter the food chain after the bullfight).
The question of public funding is particularly controversial in Spain, since widely disparaged claims have been made by supporters and opponents of bullfighting. According to government figures, bullfighting in Spain generates 1600 million euros a year and 200,000 jobs, 57000 of which are directly linked to the industry. Furthermore, bullfighting is the cultural activity which generates the most tax revenue for the Spanish state (45 million euros in VAT tax and over 12 million in social security).
Critics claim often that bullfighting is financed with public money. However, despite bullfighting involving around 25 million spectators annually, it represents just 0.01% of those state subsidies allocated to cultural activities, and always under 3% of the cultural budget of regional, provincial and local authorities. The bulk of subsidies are paid by local town halls where there is a historical tradition and support for bullfighting and related events, which are often held without charge to participants and spectators. The European Union does not subsidize bullfighting but it does subsidize the cattle farming in general, which benefits also benefit those who rear Spanish fighting bulls.
In 2015, 438 of 687 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) voted in favour of amending the 2016 E.U. budget to indicate that the "Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) appropriations or any other appropriations from the budget should not be used for the financing of lethal bullfighting activities".
Late-19th-century / early-20th-century Fin-de-siècle Spanish regeneracionista some intellectuals protested against what they called the policy of pan y toros ("bread and bulls"), an analogue of Roman panem et circenses promoted by politicians to keep the populace content in its oppression. Such belief was part of the wider current of thought known as anti-flamenquismo whereby they simultaneously campaigned against the popularity of both bullfighting and flamenco music, which they believed to be "oriental" elements of Spanish culture which were responsible for Spain's backwardness as compared to the rest of Europe. During the Franco dictatorship, bullfights were supported by the state as something genuinely Spanish, as the fiesta nacional, so that bullfights became associated with the regime and, for this reason, many thought they would decline after the transition to democracy, but this did not happen. The government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, was the first to be more opposed to bullfighting, prohibiting children under 14 from attending and limiting or prohibiting the broadcast of bullfights on national TV, although the latter measure was reversed after his party lost the elections in 2011. Nevertheless, his party is overall not opposed to bullfighting and anti-bullfighting measures have only been passed in municipalities where it governs in coalition with the far-left party Podemos which has taken a clearer anti-bullfighting stance. However, even Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias has recently stated that even though he is opposed to it, he would not illegalize bullfighting if his party came to power.
Despite its long history in Barcelona, in 2010 bullfighting was outlawed across the Catalonia region, following a campaign led by an animal rights civic platform called "Prou!" ("Enough!" in Catalan). Critics have argued that the ban was motivated by issues of Catalan independentism and identity politics. In October 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that the regional Catalonian Parliament had not competences to ban any kind of espectacles that are legal in Spain.
The Spanish Royal Family is divided on the issue, from Queen Sofía who does not hide her dislike for bullfights; to King Juan Carlos who occasionally presides over a bullfight from the royal box as part of his official duties; to their daughter Princess Elena who is well known for her liking of bullfights and who often accompanies the king in the presiding box or attends privately in the general seating. The King has allegedly stated that "the day the EU bans bullfighting is the day Spain leaves the EU".
Pro-bullfighting supporters include the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his party (Partido Popular), as well as most leaders of the major left-leaning opposition PSOE Party, including former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and the current Presidents of Andalusia, Extremadura and Castilla-La-Mancha. Nevertheless, former PSOE Prime Minister Zapatero was more lukewarm towards the Fiesta, and under his government there was a 6-year ban on live bullfights broadcast on the state-run national TV Channel. This has been lifted since his government was voted out in 2011. Live Bullfights are shown at the traditional 6 p.m. time on TVE as of September 2012.
Bullfighting has been seen as intertwined with religion and religious folklore in Spain at a popular level, particularly in the areas where it is most popular. Bullfighting events and festivities are as a rule celebrated as a core (yet profane) element of religious festivities celebrating local Patron Saints, always along a range of other festive activities. On the other hand, the bullfighting world is also inextricably linked to religious iconography involved with religious devotion in Spain, with bullfighters seeking the protection of various Virgins and often being members of religious brotherhoods.
State-run Spanish TVE had cancelled live coverage of bullfights in August 2007 until September 2012, claiming that the coverage was too violent for children who might be watching, and that live coverage violated a voluntary, industry-wide code attempting to limit "sequences that are particularly crude or brutal". In October 2008, in a statement to Congress, Luis Fernández, the President of Spanish State Broadcaster TVE, confirmed that the station will no longer broadcast live bullfights due to the high cost of production and a rejection of the events by advertisers. However the station will continue to broadcast 'Tendido Cero', a bullfighting magazine programme. Having the national Spanish TV stop broadcasting it, after 50 years of history, was considered a big step for its abolition. Nevertheless, other regional and private channels keep broadcasting it with good audiences.
The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his government have lifted the ban on live bullfights being shown on TVE and live bullfights are now shown at the traditional 6 p.m. time on TVE as of September 2012.
A Portuguese television station stopped broadcasting of bullfights in January 2008, on the grounds that they were too violent for minors.
Declaration as Cultural Patrimony
A growing list of Spanish, French and South American cities and regions have started to formally declare their celebrations of bullfighting part of their protected cultural patrimony. Most of these declarations have come into place as a counter-reaction in the aftermath of the 2010 ban in Catalonia.
As of April 2012, the latest addition to this list is the Andalusian City of Seville.
In November 1567, Pope Pius V issued a papal bull titled De Salute Gregis and forbidding fighting of bulls and any other beasts as the voluntary risk to life endangered the soul of the combatants, but it was abolished eight years later by his successor, Pope Gregory XIII, at the request of King Philip II.
Bullfighting was introduced in Uruguay in 1776 by Spain and abolished by Uruguayan law in February 1912. Bullfighting was also introduced in Argentina by Spain, but after Argentina's independence, the event drastically diminished in popularity and was abolished in 1899 under law 2786.
Bullfighting was present in Cuba during its colonial period, but was abolished by the United States military under the pressure of civic associations right after the Spanish–American War in 1901. Bullfighting was also banned for a period in Mexico in 1890; consequently some Spanish bullfighters moved to the United States to transfer their skills to the American rodeos.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, bullfighting in Spain was banned at several occasions (for instance by Philip V), but always reinstituted later by other governments.
Bullfighting had some popularity in the Philippines during Spanish rule, though foreign commentators derided the quality of local bulls and toreros. Bullfighting was noted in the Philippines as early as 1619, when it was among the festivities in celebration of Pope Urban III's authorisation of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Following the Spanish–American War, the Americans suppressed the custom in the Philippines under the tenure of Governor General Leonard Wood, and it was replaced with a now-popular Filipino sport, basketball.
20th century onwards
Bullfighting is now banned in many countries; people taking part in such activity would be liable for terms of imprisonment for animal cruelty. "Bloodless" variations, though, are permitted and have attracted a following in California, Texas, and France. In southern France, however, the traditional form of the corrida still exists and it is protected by French law. However, in June 2015 The Paris Court of Appeals removed bullfighting/"la corrida" from France's cultural heritage list. While it is not very popular in Texas, bullfighting is legal (the only U.S. state to allow it), and both bloodless and pure forms of bullfighting occur at rodeos in small Texas towns.
In 1991, the Canary Islands became the first Spanish Autonomous Community to ban bullfighting, when they legislated to ban spectacles that involve cruelty to animals, with the exception of cockfighting, which is traditional in some towns in the Islands; bullfighting was never popular in the Canary Islands. Some supporters of bullfighting and even Lorenzo Olarte Cullen, Canarian head of government at the time, have argued that the fighting bull is not a "domestic animal" and hence the law does not ban bullfighting. The absence of spectacles since 1984 would be due to lack of demand. In the rest of Spain, national laws against cruelty to animals have abolished most blood sports, but specifically exempt bullfighting.
Several cities around the world (especially in Catalonia) have symbolically declared themselves to be Anti-Bullfighting Cities, including Barcelona in 2006.
On 18 December 2009, the parliament of Catalonia, one of Spain's seventeen Autonomous Communities, approved by majority the preparation of a law to ban bullfighting in Catalonia, as a response to a popular initiative against bullfighting that gathered more than 180,000 signatures. On 28 July 2010, with the two main parties allowing their members a free vote, the ban was passed 68 to 55, with 9 abstentions. This meant Catalonia became the second Community of Spain (first was Canary Islands in 1991), and the first on the mainland, to ban bullfighting. The ban took effect on 1 January 2012, and affects only the one remaining functioning Catalonian bullring, the Plaza de toros Monumental de Barcelona. It does not affect the correbous, a traditional game of the Ebro area (south of Catalonia) where lighted flares are attached to a bull's horns. The correbous are seen mainly in the municipalities in the south of Tarragona, with the exceptions of a few other towns in other provinces of Catalonia. The name correbous is essentially Catalan and Valencian; in other parts of Spain they have other names.
There is a movement to revoke the ban in the Spanish congress, citing the value of bullfighting as "cultural heritage". The proposal is backed by the majority of parliamentarians.
In October 2016 the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled that the regional Catalan Parliament has no competences to ban any kind of espectacles that are legal in Spain.
In Costa Rica the law prohibits the killing of bulls and other animals in public and private shows. However, there are still bullfights at the end and beginning of the year that are televised from Palmares and Zapote. Volunteers confront a bull in a ring and try to provoke him into charging and then run away. In a December 2016 survey, 46.4 percent of respondents wanted to outlaw bullfights while 50.1 percent thought they should continue.
Ecuador staged bullfights to the death for over three centuries due to being a former Spanish colony. On 12 December 2010, Ecuador's president Rafael Correa announced that in an upcoming referendum, the country would be asked whether to ban bullfighting; in the referendum, held in May 2011, the Ecuadorians agreed on banning the final killing of the bull that happens in a corrida. This means the bull is no longer killed before the public, and is instead taken back inside the barn to be killed at the end of the event. The other parts of the corrida are still performed the same way as before in the cities that celebrate it. This part of the referendum is applied on a regional level, meaning that in regions where the population voted against the ban, which are the same regions where bullfighting is celebrated the most, killing the animal publicly in the bullfighting plaza is still performed. The main bullfighting celebration of the country, the Fiesta Brava in Quito was still allowed to take place in December 2011 after the referendum under these new rules.
Bullfighting has been banned in three Mexican states: Sonora in 2013, Guerrero in 2014 and Coahuila in 2015.
Jallikattu, a type of bull-taming or bull-riding event is practiced in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. A bull is released into a crowd of people and participants attempt to grab the bull's hump and either hold on for a determined distance, length of time, or with the goal of liberating a packet of money tied to the bull's horns. The practice was banned in 2014 by India's Supreme Court over concerns that bulls are sometimes mistreated prior to jallikattu events. Animal welfare investigations into the practice revealed that some bulls are poked with sticks and scythes, some have their tails twisted, some are force-fed alcohol to disorient them, and in some cases chili powder and other irritants are applied to bulls' eyes and genitals to agitate the animals. The 2014 ban was suspended and reinstated several times over the years. In January 2017, the Supreme Court upheld their previous ban and various protests arose in response. Due to these protests, on 21 January 2017, the Governor of Tamil Nadu issued a new ordinance that authorized the continuation of jallikattu events. On 23 January 2017 the Tamil Nadu legislature passed a bi-partisan bill, with the accession of the Prime Minister, exempting jallikattu from the Prevention of Cruelity to Animals Act (1960). As of January 2017 Jallikattu is legal in Tamil Nadu, but another organization may challenge the mechanism by which it was legalized, as the Animal Welfare Board of India claims that the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly does not have the power to override Indian federal law, meaning that the state law could possibly once again be nullified and jallikattu banned.