Corrida de toros or bullfighting is a 2000-year-old pageant whose traditional origins stem from the ceremonies of the ancient Celtiberian tribe near Numancia in the province of Soria in Spain. Wall paintings unearthed at Knossos in Crete illustrate elaborate bullfight scenes performed by BCE cults.
I hesitatingly attended my first fight in Cordoba, inclined to dislike the spectacle. My bias evaporated the instant I saw the first fighting bull charge into the ring.
Straightaway it was evident that this amazingly quick and extremely agile animal was unlike any bull I had ever seen. Distant from the Fall Fair Blue Ribbon Winner destined for steaks. The Spanish-Iberian bull is explosive and attacks anything that moves, revealing it’s truly malicious disposition.
These bulls are bred for aggression, supplemented by their tremendous strength. The breed matures slowly to achieve a full fighting weight ranging from 1200 to 1600 lbs. Massive is the only descriptor, with enormous shoulder muscles tapering off to a “thin waist” with very powerful back legs, thus their explosive bursts of speed. From a standing start, timed quicker than a thoroughbred racehorse across the 69-ft. bullring.
These very valuable animals are bred and raised on storied ranches throughout Spain and Mexico. The male herd is secured centrally, enclosed in large high-fenced pastures, the cows are in perimeter enclosures as a buffer and all are constantly under armed guard.
Security discourages amateur matadors from vaulting the fence to test their skills. Zealous amateurs ruin a prize bull, the bull having learned the difference between cape and matador.
Bulls are separated from their mothers a year after birth and are carefully matured to combative adulthood. The two-year-olds are tested and enticed to attack a padded horse and rider. They never see a man on the ground until they enter the bullring. The selection of the fiercest bulls is determined by the combination of combative energy, strength and stamina. Lead bulls dominate and rapidly establish herd ascendancy.
The Plaza de Toros, in Mexico City, 41,000 seats, is the worlds largest bullring. Throughout the bullfighting world it is simply referred to as The Giant. Filled to capacity every Sunday. Topmost matadors travel to Mexico from Spain for the winter season, to a fan base that is immense.
Occasionally an exceptionally brave bull is pardoned by the presiding judge, that bull is ushered from the ring by steers, treated by a veterinarian and transported back to the ranch for stud.
If you don’t think the bull has a chance, you get into the ring with him.