Bullfighting; what do you think?

How it all began.

The tradition of bullfighting in Spain.

Bullfighting has existed in Spain for centuries. The bull was revered and even worshipped as a divine being before the Romans arrived in the Iberian peninsula. Some sources say that it was the Romans and in particular Julius Caesar who introduced the idea of the fight with the bull into Spain in 63 BC. It wasn't however till the thirteenth century that bullfighting in Spain began to evolve. It was then later in the eighteenth century when it began to develop into the tradition that we recognise today.

Ancient Roman Sacrifice

Sacred bull to sacrifice in mosaic, Latium , Italy
Sacred bull to sacrifice in mosaic, Latium , Italy | Source

What happens in the bullring?

This is a spectacle or tradition in which a fierce bull (toro bravo) is let loose into a bullring, in the style of a Roman arena (in Spanish ‘arena’ means ‘sand’. The arena is usually covered in sand). The bull is slowly - but some will say ‘skilfully and artistically’ - goaded, teased and generally confused by a group of ‘ picadors’ (assistants to the main bullfighter) who poke, pinch and tease the bull. When the bull is completely exhausted, but also enraged and desperate, the “matador” (literally: killer) appears. The aim of a good 'matador' is to directly pierce the heart of the confused bull in the final act of the performance. The bull should fall to its knees and die instantly.

Eighteenth century image of a bullfight

Bullfighting as tradition in 18th Century
Bullfighting as tradition in 18th Century | Source

Development of the tradition of bullfighting

Throughout the Middle Ages the contest of 'man versus bull' was developed as a symbol of bravery and of course machismo. The Middle Age noble is often portrayed as “showing off” in order to win the lady’s hand, although more likely the fight was more to show physical prowess and bravery to one’s peers or enemies; such were the times.

A young bullfighter, Cristian Marcos, ready to go into the bullring
A young bullfighter, Cristian Marcos, ready to go into the bullring | Source

What happens at the end of the bullfight?

It is interesting to note that at the end of a bullfight it is the public who ‘judge’ the performance of the fight. If the bull has been killed cleanly and fast without suffering the bullfighter is applauded and appreciation is shown. The public wave white handkerchiefs to show their opinion if the fight was ‘good’. Then it is up to the President of the bullfight to adjudicate the final analysis and all wait expectedly for the judge to make his pronouncement. (I can imagine Roman emperors giving the thumbs up or down sign for the poor bull!)

Depending on the performance of the bullfighter, he may be awarded one of the bull's ears, two ears, two ears and the tail, or on the rare occasion, he may be lifted onto the shoulders of his 'team' and carried out of the main grand doorway in the style of a great hero!

The bull gets to fight back!


Over the last three hundred years, five hundred and thirty three professional bullfighters have been killed in the bullring.

What do you think about that?

Ernest Hemingway supported the tradition of bullfighting when in Spain:

he wrote: "Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death".

Where has bullfighting been banned in Spain?


There are two regions only in which bullfighting has been banned.

Canary Islands. (Capital city: Las Palmas de Tenerife)

One part of Spain that has very little tradition of bullfighting is the Canary Islands. This is because of the rural land on the island being very limited and cattle farming has never been well developed. Bullfighting was officially banned in 1991 with very little controversy.

Catalonia. (Capital city: Barcelona)

The banning of bullfighting in Catalonia came into effect on January 2012. This caused a lot of controversy in the Spanish press at the time.

You are either for it or against it. There is a grey middle ground that some attempt to tread but generally It is such a controversial issue here in Spain at the moment.

There are several 'pros' and 'contras' to be considered but what I have found is that all the Spanish people I have spoken to NEVER change their opinion even when learning new facts or listening to new arguments. I think this must be something that the Spanish are born with. Whoever I have spoken to will always have a clear answer, an opinion. No one ever has to think twice about their answer.

Pros and Contras

Having spoken to many Spanish friends about the subject over the years, I have summarised below what I have learned about the pro and contra arguments. Needless to say some Spaniards have been in favour and some Spanish people would be happy to see it banned completely.

Some people find this to be an elegant art-form

Some people find this an elegant art form
Some people find this an elegant art form | Source

Argument supporting bullfighting

  • Some supporters believe this to be a true art form. Professional bullfighters are true athletes who train hard. They must show grace and elegance in the bullring and success is not simply measured by the death of the bull. The ‘crowd’ is very demanding and a torero has to work hard to maintain a good reputation. The 'torero' has to show a blend of bravery, style, grace, posture, agility and even respect to the bull.
  • “Toros bravos” are fierce bulls especially chosen early on in their life and are reared for four to six years in special pastures in a relatively privileged environment as opposed to normal cattle for slaughter whose life is approximately between one to two years only. The argument here is that these bulls have better 'qualityof life'.
  • Centuries of tradition which has created its own ‘tauromaquia’ (bullfighting world) culture. The beautiful ‘torero’ suit, hat, cape, sword, some of which have become highly valued items over the centuries. Needless to say this is an event that moves millions of Euros every year.
  • Many argue that the bull would be slaughtered anyway for food and at least this way the bull dies on 'centre stage' in a dignified manner.
  • There has developed a great musical and literary tradition around this Spanish custom .

Somepeople want to ban bullfighting throughout Spain

Poster against bullfighting
Poster against bullfighting | Source

The argument against bullfighting

  • The major counter-argument on the detractors' side is a simple basic argument. It is the perception of the cruelty to the bull. The goading, teasing and eventual death of the bull is inhumane and humiliating for this, or any living creature.

  • The great pomp and ceremony surrounding the tradition is simply a cover-up for what is finally going to be the murder of the animal for pure ‘fun’ or ‘entertainment’ of the crowd. Simply because it is a tradition is no reason why it is a valid tradition in the twenty-first century. There are examples of many other barbaric traditions that we as mankind supported in the past but have now abolished. Why should bullfighting not be one of them?

  • The bullfight is always going to be unfair and so not a ‘sport’ in the true sense. The bullfighter is armed and has a big support group to aid him in his ‘fight’ with the bull. The bull is at complete disadvantage.

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The two areas which have banned bullfighting in Spain

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A markercatalonia spain -
Cataluña, España
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B markercanary islands -
Canarias, España
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Hemingway enjoyed the tradition.

Hemingway in Spain

"Anything capable of arousing passion in its favour will surely raise such passion against it." Ernest Hemingway, Spain, 1932

Hemingway describes the Spanish bullfighting tradition in his own inimitable way in "Death in the afternoon". Published 1932

What do you think?

Should bullfighting be abolished?

  • Yes, it is cruel violating animal rights,
  • No, I think it is an interesting Spanish tradition,
  • I don't care.
See results without voting

This is a very controversial issue

  • Do you feel strongly about this?
  • What about other sports such as hunting? Fishing? Can you draw any similarities?
  • Have you ever been to a bullfight? How did it make you feel?

More by this Author

Comments 29 comments

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Hi Marieryan, personally I do not like bullfighting, but it is not part of my culture and I don't think I have the right to demand that it stops. It's a bit like the arguments about fox hunting in the UK, where a lot of people who do not live in the countryside and understand how it works want fox hunting banned.

I think that we should all stop worrying so much about what other people are doing and get on with our own lives. If people don't like bullfighting just don't go - if enough people don't like it, it will naturally die in its own time

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

Thanks for reading, CMHypno,

Yes I agree. Each to their own! I live in a small town on the Andalusian coast and was invited to go to the town's big bullfight of the year, which is being held today at 2pm. The town is buzzing with expectation. (This is what prompted me to write the hub!)

As you say, same as fox hunting in UK. Is that still going?

gregas profile image

gregas 3 years ago from Corona, California.

Hi Marie, When I was a kid and this so-called sport was still allowed on TV, I remember my parents watching it. I never did like it and like it less today. And yes, each to his/her own It is cruel to the bull in my opinion. To me, if the matador wants to show how brave he is then he should go and "fight" the bull BEFORE the men on the horses come out and stick him causing him to loose so much blood and wearing him down before the matador comes out. The bull is usually half dead before the matador ever faces him. So, to me that makes it cruel and inhumane. My opinion. Greg

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

Hi Gregas, thanks for your opinion.

The bull is certainly half dead before the matador comes onto the scene.

Some say though, these bulls are given a better life before they get to the bullring, compared with others that just get fed for a one or two years till they are fat enough to go directly to the slaughterhouse for human consumption. Not good either way for the bull! The spectacle and entertainment derived from the suffering is the problem I suppose.

gregas profile image

gregas 3 years ago from Corona, California.

Why torture the bull and then there is the fact that greed is involved because so many people make a lot of money from this "spectacle". Greg

alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA

I really dislike this practice especially after I read all the things they do to the bulls prior to the fight. Very sad.

bac2basics profile image

bac2basics 3 years ago from Spain

Hi Marie.

I also live in Spain and have seen Bull fighting on the TV and I think the aficionados views of this so called tradition is just a cover up for blood lust, the same as fox hunting was in the UK. The bulls are not just goaded teased and confused before their death, they also have many viciously spiked steel barbs rammed into their shoulders and neck which causes them to weaken and put down their heads as their blood flows making it easier for the matador to take aim and thrust in the final blade which kills the beast. As far as I am aware the matador doesn´t attempt to kill the bull with a spear into the heart, but instead severs the spinal cord. If he gets it right, death ( after the initial wounding by the picadors) is immediate, if he doesn´t then another spear may be thrust into the bull or the bull is taunted by the matador and picadors until the spinal cord is eventually severed and the poor creature dies. There are many cruel traditions in Spain involving bulls and many Spaniards are against all of them and I think the time will come when shame takes over and bulls will no longer be reared for the entertainment of those who don´t think animals feel pain and fear.

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

Hi, bac2basics

yes, I agree, the teasing and torturing prior to the death itself can only be described as "torture".

Regarding the cause of death itself, I quote from the Spanish organisation "Anima naturalis" which writes against bullfighting : [My translation] "The ideal goal of the matador is to pierce the heart of the bull with the sword, or if not, then to slice the surrounding veins. But the fact is the heart of these bovines is located in a position which is difficult to reach from the top through the thorax. It is between the humerus......." I can't go on but that's the gist. So when that fails ,then they go for the short dagger. Anyway you look at it, not good at all. There are surprisingly a lot Spanish websites all waging war against the bullfight. Strange though, how my little town seems to be all for it.

Thanks for reading.

agilitymach profile image

agilitymach 3 years ago

It is very interesting to read that bullfighting is so controversial in Spain. While I would expect in this day and age that a few people would be against it, I am amazed to hear it has even been banned in a couple of regions. An interesting, informative hub. Voted up and Interesting!!!

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

Glad you found this interesting, agility. There is a anti-bullfighting platform here in Spain. In some areas, however, it is still very popular. Some places seem to have nurtured the tradition/sport more than others.

This 'sport' moves enormous amounts of money and so there is a lot a stake here for some people.

SandCastles 3 years ago

Bull fighting is cruel and should be banned everywhere; it is a horrible sport. There are other cruel sports involving animals that should be banned as well. Fox hunting is banned in England, Wales, and Scotland. Cruelty towards animals has to stop. It is not entertainment to harm a living creature. Just because our ancestors did cruel things in the past does not make those things sacred and cultural and preservable. Cultures change as we become kinder, more humane, and more civilized. It was also common to burn people accused of witchcraft at the stake; should that custom be preserved because it was something people did in the past? Holding on to outdated, cruel practices shows that a culture is stagnant. Preserve the good and get rid of the bad. The good in Spanish culture: the dancing, the music, the food, the language, football, and much more but not bull fighting.

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

Sandcastles: Thanks for commenting on such a controversial subject. I never understood the argument that because "we have ALWAYS done it we have to continue doing it"! As you so rightly say, there is so much more to Spanish culture.

xstatic profile image

xstatic 3 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Cruelty to animals and exploitation of them for entertainment is wrong anywhere, including the rodeos held in this country and the illegal dog and cockfights which are part of many cultures.

Your hub was interesting and informative.

cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

cmoneyspinner1tf 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

I'm with xstatic. Cruelty to animals has nothing to do with culture and tradition. Seems to me like some folks got bored and figured out a sick way to have "fun". If you can be cruel to animals, what do you "play with", "toy with" and "tease" and "taunt" when you run out of animals? Humans?

There was a young boy charged with a heinous crime of murder. Know what he said? 'At first, it was fun slitting the throat of the animal. But after a while it wasn't fun anymore cause it was just an animal. So I decided to kill humans. True story. I'm not making it up!

Something to think about. Great HUB!

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

Thanks for commenting, Xstatic. I agree entirely that cruelty and exploitation of animals anywhere is wrong. It is amazing to realise just how much of this goes on even though there are so many against it.

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

That is a shocking case, cmoneyspinner1tf! Some people must be 'wired' that way. It is hard for those of who aren't, to comprehend the way their mind works. You are right to draw the comparison between cruelty to animals and then to humans. Words fail me.

cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

cmoneyspinner1tf 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

marieryan - You said more than enough with what you've written in your HUB.

OanaWriter profile image

OanaWriter 2 years ago

thank you for sharing this - I will never be able to accept/comprehend bullfighting. culture or not is pure cruelty and my heart whips for those poor animals being killed :(

TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 2 years ago

Bullfighting is an incredibly beautiful sport, but it is also horribly cruel in the way it is done.

This is why I am very torn about this issue.

PaulGoodman67 LM profile image

PaulGoodman67 LM 16 months ago

I understand that it is an ancient tradition, but I still think that the rights of animals are more important.

Tranquilheart profile image

Tranquilheart 15 months ago from Canada

I like the way PaulGoodman67 LM worded that answer.

sandeep15r profile image

sandeep15r 15 months ago from New Delhi

I vote against it.

gregas profile image

gregas 15 months ago from Corona, California.

And in my opinion, ancient tradition or not, I feel that anyone that enjoys watching it, (including cock fighting and/or dog fighting) are sadistic in nature. My opinion, Greg.

emge profile image

emge 15 months ago from Abu Dhabi

Bull fighting is a cruel sport. I saw a bull fight once on a visit to Spain and I found it sadistic. It needs to be banned forthwith.

marieryan profile image

marieryan 15 months ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

This is precisely the dilemma, Paul! I live in Spain and have close friends who are wonderful people, yet they defend the 'ancient tradition' argument over all else. Thanks for commenting.

marieryan profile image

marieryan 15 months ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

Thank you for reading and commenting ,Greg. There are some places now trying to honour the tradition, without actually resorting to slaughtering the animal. Let's see if that will be a compromise in the future.

marieryan profile image

marieryan 15 months ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

The problem is that it is a spectacle or performance for entertainment. Supporters of bullfighting often will say they love to see the dignity of the bull (faced with certain death) and the bravery of the matador.

gregas profile image

gregas 15 months ago from Corona, California.

I don't see any dignity for the bull when he is tortured and weakened before the matador is even brought in. If they want to show their bravery let the bull fight without the pre-torture. If he is a well raised bull for the sport then he will put on a good show. And let the matador have only his cape. Challenge the bull with the cape. Keep record of the number of passes the bull makes and how close they are. The matadors can challenge each others pass records and then both the bull and the matador walk out of the ring alive. That is unless the matador makes a mistake. If the matador gets hurt so be it. He is in there by choice, the bull isn't. In my opinion that would make a much better and more exciting show. In America we have bull riders that show their bravery, but they don't weaken the bull first and they don't kill the bull after. Greg.

Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis Rix 6 weeks ago from UK

I have visited the bullrings at Mijas and at Ronda but I have never watched a bullfight and don't wish to. But I find the history fascinating and the costumes in the museum at Ronda are spectacular. It seems to me that the bull and the fighter are more evenly matched than the fox and the hunters who until recently were engaged in the English fox hunt. Fox hunting is now illegal in Britain.

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