Bull fighting is the oldest sport in all of Spain. To some, it is a much-loved national pastime; to others, it invites huge controversy. The ongoing battle between supporters and opponents garners as much attention and passion as the sport itself. People either love it or hate it. There doesn?t seem to be any middle ground.
Supporters of bull fighting revere it is an art form. It is regarded as an intensely spiritual experience that represents the battles between man and nature and man and himself. Opponents condemn the practice as an abomination that turns civilized members of society into nothing more than barbarians. Those who despise the practice believe it is animal cruelty at its most extreme. They believe it should be banned all over the world.
Controversy surrounding bull fighting is intense. Even the Spanish royal family is divided in their opinions. The queen despises the sport and refuses to be present or have any part of the events. The king is seen on occasion officiating in the royal box as part of his duties. The princess is often seen accompanying her father in the royal box; other times, she views the fights from the general seating areas.
Bull fighting exists in many countries. For some people, it is a way of life and a celebrated tradition. Parts of Spain have banned bull fighting since approximately 2004, but still many people believe it is a time-honored tradition that should continue.
Bull fighting can be traced to prehistoric times when bulls were worshipped and sacrificed. More than 4,000 years ago, art depicted Crete?s athletes leaping over the backs of charging bulls. Early settlers in Spain sacrificed bulls to honor their gods. One of the first formal bull fights occurred in the 11th century.
In medieval times, Spanish aristocrats jousted bulls while on horseback. Spanish peasants of the same era started the tradition of fighting the bull on foot. Formal bull fighting rings became an integral part of Spanish culture in the 18th century and led to the bullfighting traditions that still exist today.
In the early 20th century, American author Ernest Hemingway revered bull fighting and brought it into the homes of the world through his writings. Hemingway saw bullfighting as man?s ultimate challenge. For many of his readers, this became their accepted view of the sport. The bullfight is the focus of hundreds of national and local fiestas which occur annually.
The battles between supporters and opponents of bull fighting have resulted in many bull rings now retaining a local veterinarian during the fights. When the veterinarian determines that the bull has suffered enough, he signals the officials, who then signal the matador to bring the fight to an end. This is similar to the practice used in rodeos all over the world today. In most cases, spectators are unaware that such monitoring is even taking place. They likely do not care, as long as they witness a good show before the fight is stopped.
Bull fighting attracts audiences from all walks of life and from all over the world. Some come for the tradition and some for the spectacle. With its celebration of centuries of custom and tradition, bullfighting continues to be a time-honored practice throughout Spain.