Bull Fighting(The Brave festival) is the national spectacle of Spain and other Spanish speaking countries like Mexico, Columbia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and in some parts of France and Portugal. The visually striking performance involves a Matador with his helpers ceremoniously fighting against a bull in the sand arena and eventually killing it at the end. Bull fighting is seen as a sport and performance of art as well.
About the Bull:
Cattle Breed - Native to Iberian Peninsula.
Age - At least 4 years.
Weight - Up to 600 kg.
Bullfighting season - March to October.
Modern Spanish Bull fighting - Corrida.
Matador - The person who works the cape and kills the bull.
Banderilleros and Picadores - Assistants of a Matador.
Banderillas - Decorated wooden sticks with spiked ends.
Muleta - A red cloth fixed to a stick.
The Corrida begins with a trumpet sound to announce the participants parading into the arena. Accompanied by band music, the participants salute the presiding dignitary(president).
Matadors wear distinguished suits made of silver or gold thread.
At each Corrida, six bulls are fought by 3 Matadors. Each Matador fights 2 bulls for 20 minutes approximately.
Most experienced Matador will fight third and the last bull, least experienced will fight first and fourth. Matador will have the help from five assistants(3 Banderilleros and 2 Picadores).
The Corrida is standardized with 3 distinct stages,
Stage 1 : Tercio de Varas
Second trumpet sound announces the arrival of Bull. Bulls entering are tested for aggressiveness by the chief assistant first with magenta and Gold cape.
The Matador watches carefully when the bull's mood, speed, power and agility are tested. They also test for vision problem, unusual head movements or if the bull wants to jump crossing the territory to the audience. Those bulls are very dangerous compared to one attacking the cape directly.
The initial attack by the Matador is called the act of cape. He let the cloak(cape) trail over the bull's head as it runs past after number of lances(passes) that Matadors make.
The third trumpet sound signals the arrival of Picadores on horseback. They carry long pikes with 4-inch steel tip. The Picador stabs them to weaken the massive tossing muscle between the shoulders of the bull. At this point, the bull can no longer able to lift its head properly.
The crowd determines whether the bull is brave or a coward by the bull's reaction to this stab. If the bull is reluctant to charge again, it get booed by the crowd.
The bullring president determines how many stabs the bull will receive, usually two or three. The stabs are separated by periods of the bull’s being lured away by the Banderilleros.
Stage 2: Tercio de Banderillas
The stage where the Banderilleros attempts to plant two Banderillas to weaken the bull further. By this point the Bull has lost a significant amount of blood and exhausted.
If the president decides that the bull is going weak or unwilling to fight, they may order the use of black Banderillas, considered to be a poor reflection on the breeder.
The fifth trumpet sound announces the arrival of Matador. He makes series of passes with the Muleta to exhaust the bull further.
First the matador removes his black winged hat and dedicates the death of the bull to the bullring president and to the crowd.
The Muleta is first held in front of the matador to site the bull and is then swung across and away from the matador’s body, taking the bull with it. The matador will continue to perform a number of different passes varying in skill and showmanship until he has complete control over the charging bull.
Stage 3: Tercio de Muerte
The final stage is to kill the bull. The Matador enters the ring again with Muleta in one hand and a sword in the other.
Standing some ten feet from the bull, the Matador keeps the bull focused on the Muleta which he held low in his left hand and aims the sword in the other hand between the shoulder blades.
If the sword goes all the way in, the bull will drop immediately to his knees, dying. If the bull fails to die the matador make a stab into the bull’s neck severing the spinal cord. The bullfight ends.
The president now awards trophies to the matador, depending on his bravery and skill. The trophies are two ears, the tail and the hoof of the Bull.
The matador must kill the bull few minutes before the given time. If not, continuous warning sounds will be given from the president. If the Matador fails to kill, the bull is dragged outside the ring and get killed. It is a dishonor to the Matador.
If the president is impressed by the performance of the bull, he orders a tour around the ring to honor the animal. A bull will be allowed to survive a fight very rarely as a recognition of an exceptional performance. The survived animals are not allowed to participate in the event again.
Bullfighting practice is considered cruel and declining popularity due to animal welfare concerns, but the Spaniards consider this as a national culture and it is considered keeping alive certain "vigor" in Spanish people.