Running with the Bulls Spain

Reviewed by [reviewed_by]

Running with the bulls – A holiday in Spain in July is always a good way of guaranteeing sunshine, but why not make it a little different this year and visit Pamplona during the Running of the bulls while you’re there as well.

The running of the bulls is an iconic event, and the town fills up fast. You can book it as part of a package, or you could make a visit to Pamplona as part of a longer break in Spain — perhaps after a relaxing last-minute holiday to Catalonia which is not too far from there.

In Catalonia you can visit the four provinces, including Barcelona which is the main city. You will enjoy the architecture, the history, plenty of churches, cathedrals and gardens to visit, and incredible food. Not to be missed is the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia and Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catala. And after a great break in Catalonia, you can plan a visit to Pamplona to watch – or even attend – the bull run.

Running of the Bulls

The running of the bulls is a Spanish tradition that takes place in several towns of the province of Pontevedra, Spain. On July 7th, there is a bull-running festival in Vigo. There are about six bulls and six runners, with the objective to get from one point of the city to another as fast as possible. The event starts at 8:00 am and lasts for five hours. Here are some things you should know the the running of the bulls….

Running of the bulls Spain
Running of the bulls Spain

Running of the Bulls Spain

This fascinating ceremony possibly dates from the early 14th century when cattle were being driven to market. Young men would prove their courage with reckless acts of bravado by jumping about among the stampeding animals. This developed over the centuries into a contest in which men would race the bulls, trying to keep ahead of them. 

In fact, leaping with bulls is much older than that in other traditions. The wall paintings at Knossos in Crete show young men somersaulting over bulls in the Minoan period, centuries before the idea of bull-fighting emerged in Spain. There are many reasons to visit Spain and if you are looking for adventure, the bull running event should top your list. 

Pamplona Running with the Bulls
Pamplona Running with the Bulls

Where and When Pamplona Running with the Bulls

The Pamplona bull run is the most famous in the world. Controversial to some, it is a big party that it is repeated across Spain and Portugal in different fiesta times, as well as in France, Mexico and Nevada. But if you only ever see one bull run in your life, Pamplona is the one to aim for – as a spectacle it is un-rivalled. Although bull running takes place in other places nowadays, the Pamplona event is the most famous, taking place during the seven day Festival of San Fermin.

Every July, the Festival of San Fermin event is broadcast on two Spanish television channels and begins with a sung benediction – ‘We ask San Fermin, our patrol, to guide us through the Run and give us his blessing.’ Various streets in Pamplona are cordoned off with wooden or steel barriers and a rocket is fired to signal the start of the race. Runners have to be 18 years old, sober and must not goad or incite the bulls in any way.

What to Wear When Running with the Bulls in Spain

The runners wear the ceremonial dress of the Festival – white shirt and trousers with red sash and neckerchief. They also carry a rolled newspaper to ‘steer’ the bulls away from them – although how much help a newspaper is against an enraged bull is something that has never been proven!

Running of the Bulls
What To Expect While Running of the Bulls

What to Expect While Running of the Bulls

The running of the bulls is a centuries-old tradition in which people run in front of a group of angry bulls. Anything between six and twelve bulls are released and the average run lasts for four minutes. Non-slip surfaces have recently been introduced which makes the run that much faster and more exciting to watch. There are man-sized gaps along the route so that a runner who may be in trouble can slip through where a bull cannot follow.

Ernest Hemingway watched the run and wrote about it in two books – The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon and the event has appeared in Hollywood and Bollywood films.

This bull running annual event is considered dangerous and thrilling as the adrenaline gets pumping. Being stampeded or gored by a bull is a possibility. You will also experience the camaraderie of it all. 

The Fire Bull Event

A nightly version of the event is the ‘fire bull’  in which runners wearing bull horns with fireworks attached and excited squealing children take the place of the young men and bulls of the day. In 2008, a quirky copy was held in Pamplona when David Coulthard and Sebastian Bourdais driving Formula One cars ‘chased’ 500 runners along the route of the run.

Flights leave for Pamplona or nearby cities regularly from most UK airports, so if you live out of London you could always choose Manchester Airport, for example, as your starting point, or you could opt for Heathrow, parking there being simple and inexpensive. If you’re planning a visit to Pamplona to watch – or even attend – the bull run, there are some things you should know. Have you watched the running with the bulls, or is it something you would want to do?

Looking for more thrilling activities in Spain? Check out the 5 Best Food Fight Festivals in Spain

Top 5 Road Trips in Malaga Spain

(photo credit: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4)