history of bullfighting in spain

In modern day Spain, the king stands strongly behind the sport. For example, a contest of some sort is depicted in a wall painting unearthed at Knossos in Crete, dating from about 2000 BC. These bullfighting-related fiestas are important community events, often reflecting local and regional identities and traditions. Mithra slaying the bull, bas-relief, 2nd century. The amount of applause the matador receives is based on his proximity to the horns of the bull, his tranquillity in the face of danger and his grace in swinging the cape in front of an infuriated animal weighing more than 460 kg (1,000 lb). By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica.
The blade must go between the shoulder blades; because the space between them is very small, it is imperative that the front feet of the bull be together as the matador hurtles over the horns. (A similar “running of the bulls,” called jallikattu, occurs among the Tamil of southern India as part of the annual Hindu festival of Pongal.). Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice in Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean region. In the ensuing melee Barca was killed and his army annihilated. Bullfighting at the turn of the 21st century. Bullfighting has played an integral and contentious role Spanish culture for thousands of years.

While mounted bullfighting waned in Spain and was transformed by the masses into the foot-based corrida common today, equestrian bullfighting was finely honed into an art and a national specialty in Portugal. . After the placing of the banderillas, a trumpet sounds signalling the last phase of the fight. During the reign of Philip IV (1621–65), the lance was discarded in favour of the rejoncillo (short spear), and leg armour was introduced to protect the mounted bullfighters. Having roots in the Roman concept of gladiator games, bullfighting was originally a sport reserved for aristocrats and was performed on horseback. They wear a distinctive costume consisting of a silk jacket heavily embroidered in gold, skintight trousers, and a montera (a bicorne hat).

Once officials release the bull, the first third, called the tercio de capa, begins and the matador carries out a series of taunts and passes to tease the bull. Historians can trace Spanish bullfighting back to 711 A.D., when the first known bullfighting event took place in honor of the coronation of King Alfonso VIII. When a bull first comes into the arena out of the toril, or bull pen gate, the matador greets it with a series of manoeuvres, or passes, with a large cape; these passes are usually verónicas, the basic cape manoeuvre (named after the woman who held out a cloth to Christ on his way to the crucifixion). The history of bullfighting in Spain is a reflection of the different peoples who inhabited the Iberian Peninsula. Bullfighting, Spanish la fiesta brava (“the brave festival”) or corrida de toros (“running of bulls”), Portuguese corrida de touros, French combats de taureaux, also called tauromachy, the national spectacle of Spain and many Spanish-speaking countries, in which a bull is ceremoniously fought in a sand arena by a matador and usually killed. As knowledge of the nobles’ prowess spread beyond their domains, they were invited to competitive jousts in provincial tournaments.

Alejandro Recio, a Spanish historian, considers the Neolithic city of Konya, Turkey, discovered by James Mellaart in 1958, as evidence of sacrificial tauromaquiaassociated with traditional rituals. Those animals selected for the corrida are allowed to live a year longer than those assigned to the slaughterhouse. Most historians trace festivities involving bulls to prehistorical times, as a trend that once extended through the entire Mediterranean coast and has just survived in Iberia and part of France. For example, the Celtiberian defenders of a city besieged by Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal’s father, in 228 bce gathered a great herd of wild horned beasts, harnessed them to wagons loaded with resinous wood lit with torches, and drove the herd at the enemy. Prior to the Punic Wars, the Celtiberians knew the peculiarities of the wild cattle that inhabited their forests. Carthaginians and Romans were astounded by accounts of Barca’s demise.

They developed the hunt into a game and herded the animals for use as an auxiliary in war, where advantage was taken of the animals’ ferocity. Testing the lines between brutality, art, sport and cultural history, the event continues to provoke viewers the world over. By the 18th century, bullfighting’s popularity had grown sufficiently to make bull breeding financially profitable, and herds were bred for specific characteristics. (Most matadors come from bullfighting families and learn their art when very young.) Six bulls, to be killed by three matadors, are usually required for one afternoon’s corrida and each encounter lasts about 15 minutes. Three centuries of Visigoth rule (415–711 ce) evolved a spectacle featuring brute strength of men over bulls that was later adopted by Portuguese bullfighters (discussed below) and is still retained as one of their specialties.


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