Fighting bulls

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Bullfighting is popular game where the fighters known as matadors dramatically attempt to kill a bull in a public spectacle. This game is governed by a set of rules and has a lot of cultural significance. It is popular sport in Spain, Mexico, Columbia, Ecuador, France, and in Hispanic Caribbean countries. It has become part and parcel of Spanish culture. (Nauright & Parrish, 2012, p.4)

However, in the recent past, it has received increased criticism due to the violent nature of the sport, animal cruelty and the fatalities in the game. The supporters of this game state that is part and customs of their tradition dating back to hundreds of years ago. It receives fanatical support and many supporters pay huge sums of money to attend the show.  (Read, 2014)

Therefore, this research paper seeks to provide important information about the sport, the history of the game, rules of the game, aim, psychological effects of playing the game, the benefits of the game and a comparative study with other four games. It is an information research which outlines key important facts of the matter.

General Information on the Game of Fighting Bulls

This game has various names depending with the region and culture the person comes from. In Spain is referred as Spanish “La fiesta brava” or famously known as “the brave festival”, corrida de Toros which refers to the “running of the bulls,” the Portugues calls it “corrida de Toros” and the French, “combats de taureaux.” This is a ceremonial sport where a bull is fought by a fighter known as “Matador” until it is killed. (Nauright & Parrish, 2012, p.4)

History of the Game

In order to understand the game and the reasons why it is popular in some regions, it is critical to understand the origin of bullfighting and also how it continues to exist in the world today to better comprehend the rationales behind the two sides.

The information available traces the history of the game to prehistoric times. It is stated that the game can be traced in Greece where the bulls were used to be sacrificed for ceremonial and religious reasons. It used to be put in a cage or small enclosure with a fierce animal such as a tiger or a lion and both beasts fought to the death. With the passage of time, the game metamorphosed into a duel between a man and the bull which is now famously referred as bullfighting. Therefore the rules we able to be on how the game should be played and it became a very popular sport. (Seufert, 2011, p. 3)

It is documented that the modern bullfighting between man and the bull started in Spain in around at around 711 A.D although some information puts the date around 1133. The animals used in the fight used to come from an ancient breed of bulls known as “bravo toro.” In the past, it used to be done at the back of the horse and it was held at the coronation of King Alfonso VIII and was received for Spanish aristocratic. However, it was banned King Felipe V who believed that it was not good for nobles to play such a bloody sport. Therefore, the commoner started playing the game with small weapons and on foot, dodging and stabbing the bull which developed into the modern form with the rules and regulations. The stadiums for the fights have been developed in Madrid, Seville and Pamplona. (Seufert, 2011, p. 4)

Rules of the Game

The Bull

In order for the bull to take part in the fight, it must satisfy certain minimum requirements as stipulated by the ministry of interior which is in charge of the policing, security and controlling the traffic which is also the executive branch of the government. The fighting bull must weigh about 1000lbs(470kg) and must between 4-5 years. Further, it must be a virgin and it has never taken part in the fight. The horns of the bulls must be intact, that is to say, they have been cut or shaved. It must also be of the right appearance lest the crowd will reject and demand another one. ““defectuoso”  (Read, 2014) The veterinary doctor has to inspect them and confirm that they indeed meet these requirements. (Hemingway et al., 2010, p 48)


The Matadors are the fighters in the game and for them to take part in the sport they must have trained and practised for many years and sworn through the ranks. Therefore, during the fight, the matador will wear a “traje de luces” or “suit of light” (See above picture). The said suit is embroiled with gold thread or silver. The matador is the leader of the fighter with 6 assistants on feet who fight to kill the bull and must, therefore, dominate it. (Read, 2014)

The Structure of the Game

Opening Parade

This is the much awaited moment where the fighters come out through the tunnel into the pit and position themselves. The bull is also released into the pitch and the fight commences while the supporters cheer on. (Read, 2014)

Cape Stage

It is the first stage, the fighter tests the strength of the bulls with passes and taunts. The bull will charge on the cape and the fighter gracefully moves aside so that he gains the admirations of the supporters. (Read, 2014) Hemingway observes that keeping close to the bull which is very dangerous is an art that is developed for a very long time and “the bull only goes for the percale of the cape or the scarlet of the mulete if the man makes him and so handles the cloth the bull can see it rather than the man” (Hemingway et al., 2010, p 48)

Picador Stage

This is the second stage of the game. They are the bullfighters riding on the horseback who wear protective lances and armor. Their work is to taunt the bull so as to anger it while banderilleros rush the fighting bull on foot. (Read, 2014)

Killing Stage

This is the last stage of the game where the bull is tired with stabbings and the rushes. Here the fighter (Matador) will move with a red cape and a sword that he will plunge at the back of the coming bull as it charges towards him. A good kill earns more respect, the bull will topple over and the assistant will come to cut the throat. If the matador has fought a good fight he will be rewarded with a hoof or an ear of the bull. (Read, 2014)

Therefore, in the game there are usually 6 bulls that are killed by three different players. Ech player is supposed to kill three bulls.

The Aim of the Game

Just like other popular sports, the aim of the game is for entertainment. The spectators pay huge sums of money to come and attend the show so that they can watch the game. It is a popular sport that attracts a lot of people in the country of Spain and other countries. (Douglass, 1999)

Secondly, the sport has a cultural significance. As discussed earlier it is embedded in the traditions of the most of the countries that practice it dating it back to years back. In other societies, it has religious significance case in point is the early cultural activities in Greek (Douglass, 1999)

Thirdly, it has commercial significance and acts as a major tourist destination. Tourists from different countries and nations travel to Spain to watch. It is a major sport that attracts people who love the sport to come and enjoy watching the game. (Douglass, 1999)

Fourthly, it also creates employment opportunities for the fighters who become matadors, assistants and other employment opportunities. It also generates revenue for the government in form of taxes and is a major cultural and economic activity. (Douglass, 1999)

Age-Related Physiological and Psychological Effects of Playing the Game

There has been a lot of concern about the physiological and psychological effects of watching the game especially on the young children and the elderly. The first major issue relates to violence and is fatal to the bull and is also dangerous to the matador.

The sport raises the issue into main is the issue of violence towards the animals which is the bull and the correlation between the violence between the humans and the animals. These concerns are real and pose a real danger to the people involved and also the public. Matadors have been gored many times and the bulls have been pierced and brutally killed.

First, with regard to children the violent nature of the game has traumatic effects and also it may be tantamount to incitement to habitual violence. It is a violent game, which may lead to the death of the matador himself.

Ivan Fandiño who died after being gored by the bull

The above picture is of late Ivan Fandiño who died after being gored by the bull; the photo is courtesy of the Independent)

The reaction of a child watching the bull being taunted and tortured by matadors is that of fear, discomfort and rejection. And of course, it may lead to protestation by the child to watch the show and crying. These may eventually affect psychological trauma where the child is unable to the gruesome and horrific scenes watched. The wound and the slow death will definitely have an impact on the children. (Graña et al., 2004, p. 17)

According to the research conducted by the University of Madrid in Spain on the psychological effects of watching the bullfighting by children is that the violent scenes have an impact compared to the adults. It affects the children unto the age of 19 years. The studies further revealed that for children between 9-12 years, 56.3% of the children who watched the bullfight reported indifference. (Graña et al., 2004, p. 18)

Further, according to the response by the children they considered the bullfighting to be a violent event and aggressive, most of them felt a feeling of grief 52.8% and indifference at 36.8% and therefore it has great emotional impact and anxiety to the children. (Graña et al., 2004, p. 19)

As regards the elderly, at the time of this publication there was scanty information available on the Physiological and Psychological effects to them. Although it naturally follows, that such violent scenes may bring traumatic experiences to them. (Graña et al., 2004, p. 20)

Therefore, having analyzed the issues above it is clear that the children are most vulnerable to such games and therefore efforts need to be undertaken to ensure that they are protected from attending and watching the bullfighting.

Benefits of the Game

This is a game that is considered to be a cultural heritage in most of the countries and regions that practice it. For example, in the country of Spain, the sport of bullfighting has been declared by the government as a cultural heritage that is worth to be protected. (Douglass, 1999)

Secondly, the game of bullfighting is an important entertainment. Using again the example of Spain, the festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, held yearly and features bullfighting and “running with the bulls.” This activity was originally a religious activity. Other than the above, this game is popular and enjoys a huge following in most of the countries. (Douglass, 1999)

Compare the Games’ Benefits to 4 (Four) Other Games

Fighting bull and basketball: These are two popular, the benefit is that bullfighting stadium is able to contain more fans; it has fewer rules compared to basketballs. It is a cultural activity, therefore; it is able to attract a lot of crowds.

Fighting bull and football: The two sports are able to attract a huge following and crowd to the stadium to watch the event. The benefit of the fighting bulls is that it does not have a lot of rules, footballs have referee and it has many rules governing including penalties.

Fighting bull and Hockey: The Fighting bull is easy to understand as it is more popular compared to the game of hockey.

Fighting Bull and Golf: the Fighting bull is a game enjoyed mostly by the ordinary person while the game of golf is most enjoyed by wealthy people.


The game of fighting bull is a popular sport that is enjoyed in various countries and regions. It is not only a normal sport but it is game with a lot of cultural and religious significance. This paper has been able to highlight the history of the sport and how it emerged to be a popular sport. Further, it has discussed the important rules that govern the game, the aim of the sport and also the psychological effects and other important facts.

This research comes at a time when there is intense pressure by some groups that the game should be banned on the allegations of animal cruelty and also endangers the life of humans. The case in point is the ban in Catalonia and the death of one of the matadors in Spain. However, it is an enjoyable game that has huge following.

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  1. Douglass, C. B. (1999). Bulls, bullfighting, and Spanish identities. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica, B. C. (2014, January 12). bullfighting | spectacle. Retrieved from
  3. Graña, J., Cruzado, J., Andreu, J., Muñoz-Rivas, M., Peña, M., & Brain, P. (2004). Effects of viewing videos of bullfights on Spanish children. Aggressive Behavior, 30(1), 16-28. doi:10.1002/ab.20005
  4. Hemingway, E., Gaines, B., Recorded Books, LLC, Simon and Schuster, Inc, Playaway Digital Audio, … LLC. (2010). Death in the afternoon. Solon, OH: Playaway Digital Audio.
  5. Nauright, J., & Parrish, C. (2012). Sports around the world: History, culture, and practice. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO
  6. Read, O. (2014). At What Cost Should Culture Be Preserved? (Unpublished master’s thesis). Western Oregon University, OR.
  7. Seufert, M. (2011). La corrida de toros – the tradition of bullfighting in spain. Place of publication not identified: Grin Verlag Ohg.
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