Seeing Red: Running Of The Bulls In Spain

The bull – you wouldn’t like it when it’s angry. Despite the title of this article, did you know that a bull is incapable of distinguishing red from green? It charges when it sees the bullfighter waving the cape, regardless of colour.

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In Spain, a bullfighter is called a torero. His (or her) formal title is matador de toros (killer of bulls). While regularly seen in the ring dressed in theatrical suits and waving a red cape, all these colours are more for the spectators than for the bull itself. After all, the much-celebrated tradition of bullfighting, called corrida, is more of a performance art than a sport, although the cattle will likely disagree if it could.

The bullfighter is both an athlete and a master performer. It takes a certain skill to anger and then dodge a charging bull while making sure the audience is enjoying the show. Those with big cowboy dreams and very little training can join Pamplona’s famous festival Fiesta de San Fermin, a seven-day festival held every summer in the Spanish town. The ‘Running of the Bulls’ objective is simple: Run for your life amidst a mad crush while six wild bulls are chasing you. You have to be at least 18, sober, give your word that you won’t anger the bulls, and be generally fearless.

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Six wild bulls running in the streets look scary enough, and these animals aren’t even riled up. That happens much later in the ring, where the professional bullfighters take over.

So how do you know when a bull is angry? It’s all in the posturing. When a bull’s shoulders are hunched, hair raised and neck curved towards the threat – you know it’s angry. When it starts pawing or horning the ground, it’s probably getting ready to charge. At this point it would be wise to remember not to wave a white flag of surrender – it might just mistake you for a torero and charge.

Further reading:
- Does the color red really make bulls angry?

- Why and how to read a cow or bull

- What is a bull-fight?

- Quick guide to the Running of the Bulls


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Author: Catrine Carpenter

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