The national animal of Spain is the bull. The bull is also an important component of Spanish culture in general. For instance, Spain participates in bullfighting and the traditional Running of the Bulls. In recent years, some of these activities have brought some controversy to the country’s traditions.
The Running of the Bulls
The Running of the Bulls is part of the San Fermin Festival, which takes place in Pamplona each summer morning between July 7th and 14th. People gather at Plaza de Castillo to sing. Then the bulls are released at 8 a.m. with the sound of fireworks in the air. People run down Calle Estafeta with six bulls and the eight oxen that herd them.
The Running of the Bulls is very dangerous. Over the years, some people have died and numerous people have been injured during the event.
This event dates back to the 16th century. In the early days, the goal of the event was to herd the bulls from their corrals in Pamplona to the bullfighting ring. People would often hit the bulls with sticks and yell at them to get them to move to the corrals. In the 1850s, people began running the course as well. This helped set a new tradition.
Bullfighting is a popular sport in Spain, especially in summer and fall. Known as matadors, bullfighters walk around the ring to begin the match. During the first stage, the matador tests the strength of the bull by holding up a small red cape called a muleta. In the second stage, a horseback bullfighter called a picador, taunts the bull. The taunting continues as spectators throw barbs at the bull to make it angry. The matador again waves the cape, which hide a sword, daring it to charge. When it inevitably does—it’s the movement, not the cape’s traditional hue that riles up the bull—the matador kills the doomed animal to much fanfare and applause (on rare occasions, a bull may be pardoned for exceptional behavior). The event lasts several hours.
Bullfighting began around the year 711 when King Alfonso VIII was coronated. It may have been inspired by gladiator events associated with the Roman Empire. Spain began to hold these exciting events, which were typically reserved for members of the upper social class. King Felipe V put a stop to the events for upper classes in the 1700s. In 1724, lower classes picked up bullfighting once again.
Recently, bullfighting has become controversial, as many people and groups view the event as cruel to the animal. Others view it as an important aspect of Spanish culture. Cities including Barcelona have banned bullfighting, along with 100+ towns throughout Spain.
Facts About Bulls
Bulls are adult male cows that have not been castrated. Bulls are very large creatures, weighing up to 1,800 pounds. One bull can live for about 25 years. Because of their size and mannerisms, adult males can become dangerous. Bulls that are scared can lash out and injure or kill a person. Signs a bull is scared included hunched shoulders and a lowered head.
Spain’s Other National Symbols
Spain also has other national symbols. For instance, Spain’s national flower is the red carnation. “Oplus ultra” is the national motto. It means “further beyond.” Another popular symbol is the windmill, which comes from the book Don Quijote.