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Each bullfight comprises six bulls and three matadors, each of whom fights two bulls. The bulls are specially bred fighting bulls, usually from the same bloodline and are not less than four years old with a weight somewhere between 500 and 800 kilos. They must never have faced a man on foot before they enter the bullring. The reason being that if this is the case, they may charge the man, instead of the cape. The selection of bulls is determined by drawing lots on the morning of the corrida. The toreros perform in order of seniority with the senior matador going first and fourth, the second-ranked matador second and fifth and the least experienced fighting third and sixth. If a matador is gored and unable to continue, the senior matador must take his place and complete the fight. Each bullfight is divided into three stages of thirds and lasts for around 20 minutes. A corrida starts with a parade of all the contestants and bailiffs dressed in 17th century costume, who salute the president of the fight. The president is an important official who controls the fight and can award trophies to a matador who performs well. A trumpet is blown to announce the first fight when the matador and his team enter the ring, and to signal the end of each stage. The bailiffs receive the key to the gate which is thrown to them by the president of the bullfight, through which the bulls enter the ring. The president then waves a white handkerchief to signal the entrance of the first bull into the ring.

Preliminary Phase
During the preliminary phase the footmen, peones or capeadores work the bull with large magenta and gold capes while carefully appraising its agility, intelligence, dangers, sight and, most importantly, its strength. It's very important for the matador to determine the animal's qualities such as whether it favours one horn or the other (eg hooks to the left) or swings its horns up at the end of each pass. Sometimes a bull is reluctant to fight in which case it will be tactfully withdrawn on the sign of a green handkerchief from the president.

First stage
This is when the picadores, mounted on padded and blindfolded horses provoke the bull to attack them. The aim is to plunge their lance into the bull's neck thus weakening its strong neck muscles. This causes it to lower its head without which the matador couldn't perform the coup de grace in the final part of the fight

Second stage
When the bull has been sufficiently weakened by the picadores, the next stage commences, during which barbed darts decorated with colourful ribbons are placed in the bull's neck. The banderillero, carrying a banderilla in each hand, runs towards the charging bull at an angle and places the banderillas in its neck. These are not supposed to weaken the bull but rather correct any tendency to hook, regulate the carriage of the head and slow it down.

Final stages
The final stage of a bullfight is called the suerte/tercio del muerte and ends with the death of the bull. It begins with the matador removing his hat, saluting the president and asking for permission to perform and kill the bull. He may dedicate the bull to somebody in the crown. Sometimes the matador will toss his hat over his head, if it lands upside down, it is supposed to be bad luck. The matador creates a series of passes with his red cape (of which there are 40), bringing the animal closer to his body. The two most basic passes include the right handed pass in which the sword is used to expand the cloth and the left handed 'natural'. After each pass the crowd usually shouts Olé!.

The kill
When the matador realises the bull is weak and unable to charge much longer he will reach for his killing sword and seek to manoeuvre it directly in front of him with its head down, so that he can administer the death stroke. The matador looks down the sword to sight the target, leans over the horns and attempts to insert it between the cervical vertebra and into the bull's heart.

Finale
If the matador has performed well and made a quick, clean kill he will be applauded, do a lap of honour and be showered with flowers, hats, cushions and anything else to hand. The crowd demonstrates its approval of a fight by waving white handkerchiefs which are a signal to the president to award the matador a trophy, such as an ear or tail. If the bull has put up a good fight, its carcass will also receive a lap of honour and very occasionally if a bull is exceptionally brave or strong and the matador is unable to kill it, it may be spared and allowed to return to its stud farm to live out its life in peace.

The regulations on bullfighting define in exacting detail the structure and procedure of bullfíghting in Spain.

  • Six bulls are selected and allocated in pairs to three individual matadores (bullfighters). This takes place at noon on the day of the fight.

  • The impresario (promotors) contracts matadores who engage their own assistants. They dress in trajes de luces (suits of lights) in hotels of the town during the day of the corrida (bullfight).

  • The bullfight begins in late afternoon, which is why there are different prices for seats in or out of the sun.

  • Each matador and his team walk out together in ordered procession across the arena, adding pomp and ceremony.

  • The president of the bullfíght signals for the first bull to be released whereupon the fanfare of trumpets from the brass band also ends the pasodoble (popular two beat dance music).

  • The first bull is engaged by the first bullfighter's team of assistants with large purple capes to see how it moves in the plaza de toros (bullring).
  • In the next section, the president sígnals the entry of two picadores (lancers on horseback), one of whom is to pierce the bull´s neck in a limited way.

  • Then the first of three banderilleros (usually older bullfighters who form part of the matador's team) índivídually run towards the bull making him charge. Their job is to insert two banderillas (decorated wooden sticks with spiked ends) over the horns into the bull's neck muscle.

  • In the final section the torero (star matador) engages the bull with his elegance and control, then exchanges the purple and yellow capote (large cape) for the red muleta (smaller cape) and curved sword. He might dedicate the bull to an individual or the audience.
  • If he performs well and the bull is killed cleanly, the audience will wave white handkerchíefs to try to oblige the president to award an ear or two ears and tail to him.
     
  • If a matador is injured and has to leave the ring to be attended by his surgeon or to hospital, then the remaíning matadores must kill the bull.

  • The bull's carcass is quickly removed, pulled out of the arena by harnessed horses and then distributed for sale in butchers' shops or local market.

  • When the sixth and last bull is dead, the matadors and their teams cross the arena. Ocasionally a matador may be carried out of the arena through the main gates on the shoulders of his fans. This is the ultimate accolade. They usually return quickly to their hotels to change.

  • The newspapers may report the fight with photos in the sports pages of the next day´s edition. League tables of matadors are maintained each season based on the number of bulls fought, ears awarded, and tails awarded.


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Rejoneo Horses are an intergral part of bullfighting.

In the First stage of a bullfight a trumpet signals the entrance of the picadors, mounted on heavily padded and blindfolded horses, they provoke the bull to attack them. The aim is to plunge their lance into the bull's neck thus weakening its strong neck muscles. Click here for a full description of the bullfight programme.

Rejoneo is bullfighting on horseback. This requires enormous skill and great horsemanship. Look out for the word 'rejoneo' on the bullfighting poster and artwork of a horseman. Click here for more about rejoneo in our Bullfighting section

The ceronomy of testing the young bulls involves letting the young bulls run wild and the horsemen test their bravery by trying to toss them with long poles. Those young bulls that pass the test continue to be raised on the farm until, at three years' old, they are selected for a bullfight. Those that don't reach the standard, will be sold at market.
This practice is not open to the public as such, but if you happen to come across it on a back road on your way to Jerez. Many ranches are very hospitable and will allow interested parties to watch.

 

  • Toro - bull
  • Plaza de toros - bullring
  • Corrida - bullfight
  • Matador - star bullfighter
  • Torero - bullfighter (general term applicable to any person who engages in the ultimate death of the bull)
  • Picador - lancer (on horseback)
  • Banderillero - bullfighter (on foot) who inserts barbed wooden decorated sticks into the bull´s neck muscle
  • Traje de luces - suit of lights (colourful sequined suit worn by bullfighters)
  • Veronica - a type of pass whereby the cape is drawn over the bull´s head while the man holds a posture.
    (There are many terms used for defining moves, which makes reading an article in the press on bullfighting rather esoteric.)

There are over seventy bullrings in Andalucia registered by the Regional government. The most important is the Real Maestranza de Sevilla with seating capacity for 10.000.

There are also important bullrings in the other Cities such as Malaga, Almeria, Huelva, Jaen, Granada, Cadiz, and Cordoba. Villages such as Olvera have small seemingly temporary structures that serve only once a year at the village feria.

There is a specialist branch of Architecture devoted to the layout and functionality of bullrings.

 

Province Map

How to buy a Bullfight ticket in Spain

Bullfight posters will appear in the town and surrounding locality about two weeks before a fight. These detail the type of fight, the names of the matadors, the ranch from where the bulls are reared, and the date and time. Bullfights always start promptly in Spain.

Tickets (billetes) prices vary considerably depending on the bullring, the bullfighters and the occasion. Tickets for small corridas usually cost from 1,000 to 6,000 ptas, although tickets for the cheaper seats in a novillada are usually less than 1,000 ptas. Tickets for top fights may be sold by touts for up to ten times their face value.

Seats are usually designated as being in the shade (sombra) or the sun (sol), with shaded seats being more expensive. Sun and shade (sol y sombra) seats are those that become shaded as the fight progresses. The closer you are to the action, the more expensive the seat, with ringside barrier (barrera) seats in the shade being the most expensive. So are those nearer the president's box ( where the bullfighters often play towards). Some rings have seats designated as contrabarrera which are the next rows to the barrier seats. The seats behind the ringside seats are called tendidos and my be divided into high (alto) and low (bajo) areas. They are the cheapest seats in the ring. Cushions may be rented for around 40 ptas and are advisable as the seats are usually stone or concrete. Children aren't admitted to bullfights.

Tickets show the section name and number (eg tenido 10), the row (fila) and the seat (asiento) number. It's best to purchase tickets from the box office (taquilla) at the bullring or at the official ticket office. Tickets sold by agents have a surcharge. You should avoid buying a ticket from a tout who will often tell you that the bullfight is sold out when it is not. Most fights do not sell out completely so if you arrive at the bullring in reasonable time you should be able to get a ticket. Booking early offers the chance of a better seat for the same price. The exception to this are the most popular fights during the summer fiesta in larger towns.

At popular fight you may be approached by 'touts' on the way to the booking office. They sometimes sell tickets at less than face value. Do not pay more than the face value printed on the ticket unless you are sure the tickets are definitely sold out at the booking office. A tout will tell you that the bullfight is sold out when it is not. Be careful when buying tickets from touts, although there is little risk of forgery the tickets sold may not correspond to seats located together. Check the tenido (section), fila (row) and numero (seat number) carefully.

Don't miss the opportunity for buying souvenirs such as old posters, photographs and assorted memorabilia. You can also buy flowers to throw at the bullfighter when he does his lap of honour.

All seats are numbered. Enter the ring in plenty of time and take trouble to find your correct seats. There should be somebody on hand to help you. If you see spare seat do not assume it is vacant until after the first bull. Many times people arrive at the very last minute to claim their seats from others who took the opportunity for a better view. This leads to a game of musical chairs.

Waiting for the bullfight to start look out for the different sections in the arena. These include the president's box, the VIP box (special guests of the promotor or the town hall), the municipal brass band's section. Around the ring notice the 'callejon' (passage) which is where the bullfighter's assistant 'apoderado' will run. There are also marked positions for the various officials, doctors, police, municipal observers, press photographers.

At the advertised time the band goes quiet, the bullfighters take up their positions and the first bull charges into the ring. If you have not already done so, read our guide to the bullfight.

 

We present below a calendar of bullfights in Andalucia. They include the bullfighters names when known.

The bullfighting season in Spain is April to October. Out of this season many bullfighters travel to Mexico and Colombia.

We list the bullfights that are anounced in advance, there are many bullfights that are only anounced locally a couple of weeks before the fight. Look out for bullfight posters locally or buy a bullfighting magazine such as '6toros6' from a newsagent. Bullfights are always celebrated during of each town's summer festivals usually on the Sunday.

Bullfights usually start in the late afternoon at six or seven pm, perhaps earlier in the winter. Bullfights always start promptly at the the advertised time.

Click here for the Andalucia.com bullfight calendar

 

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