The Running of the Bulls



The "Encierro" or Running of the Bulls in the single most exciting event of the Fiesta of San Fermin. The race between the "mozos" which are young men, and the bulls throughout the narrow streets of the Pamplona old quarter is an explosion of sounds, images, and sensations which are unique for the spectator and impossible to forget for those who run.
The "three minute death game" has been in Pamplona since the later part of the 14th century. Although the form might be a little bit different than what it used to be, the bulls have been "escorted" into the bull ring for at least 600 years. Just at the starting-line there is a small nitch built into the wall which holds a small figure of San Fermin. Religious believers say that the runners' "good luck" can be attributed to the "hand of Saint Fermin" which reaches down from the heaven to the rescue of a runner who gets into trouble. This celestial "hand" somehow diverts the beast's attention and saves the threatened runner. Here, the runners who are bunched up in a disordered pack, chant a homily to the saint to entreat his protection just before the bulls are let loose from the pen. "Of San Fermin we ask, as our protector, to bless us and safely guide us in this run."
Before the race begins, chaos is formed. People are up and about as early as 6:30, trying to find that perfect seat for the viewing of the bull run. The race starts at exactly 8:00 am every morning during the annual festivals that are celebrated from the 7th - 14th of July. All of the spectators must stay behind a double-fencing along the route. One of the most practical reasons for this is, that the runners have the space to jump over the fence should they need to. The bulls are let loose from the Rochapea Rampart, a structure that forms a part the ancient Pamplona fortress walls, onto Santo Domingo street. This stretch, which is 280 meters long has been considered the most dangerous stretch because on this initial stage the six bulls burst out of the pen full of energy. There is no protective fence on this part which leads into the small square in front of the Town Hall and so, there is no place you can duck into out of the way of the rampaging bulls. In such circumstances, the bravest of the brave runners do not hesitate in effectively during the bull towards the bullring with the mere aid of a rolled up newspaper to attract and prod the animal.
Participating in the bull run is very dangerous. Six full-grown bulls that usually weigh over 1120 pounds are a potential threat to the hundred of runners who find themselves in close contact with a horn 1 meter behind them. The risk of being gored or trampled occurs when one bull is separated from the herd, and this is the danger that draws people to this test of manhood.
As both the runners and the bulls charge full sprint down the street from the Town Hall, the stretch widens and connects into the Ayuntamiento Square and then onto a short street called a Mercaderes. This stretch is about 100 meters long and by this time the bulls begin to slow down. At the end of Mercaderes Street, the route takes a sharp right turn into a street called Estafeta. Estafeta leads into a narrow corrall that leads down to the stadium. It is quite tight and sometimes causes pileups of bodies at the entrance. The complete bull run circuit is made up of 850 meters of urban streets where both the bulls and the courageous young men encounter steep uphill sections, 90 degree curves, very narrow cobblestone streets, downhill sections and finally, a small tunnel that serves literally as a funnel to enter the actual bull ring where the official run is over. After the bulls are brought into the ring people pile into the arena. Only a few bulls are let back while other are tempting them to charge before they hop the wall to escape. All of the runners where the same thing, white shirts and pants with a red bandanna tied