A Madrid Bullfight
We attended a bullfight
in Madrid, at La
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas. It's as gory as one would
expect. I'm not debating bullfighting itself, just describing the
We took the Metro to the bullring, and had to get our pre-ordered
tickets. (Thanks Internet!) We had to ask a policewoman where to
go, since the ticket office didn't appear to be open. We found
that they have a modern system which scans the barcode on your ticket
order form and prints your tickets. It's located on the ground
floor behind the right doorway to the left of the main area. Do
you see a sign? We didn't either.
On our way in, we were offered to rent seat cushions for 2 euros each.
At first we thought we could tough it, but decided to go for
comfort. Glad we did, since we would have been sitting on
concrete in the sun for several hours. Seat locations are
stenciled on the concrete, and guides take you to your seats. We got
there about an hour early and had a beer while we waited.
The place filled up and you were knee-to-back in the stands.
The bullfight started with a parade of the participants. At the
end of the parade, in the center of the ring in the below picture, are
the horses with a yoke which will drag the deceased bull out after each
"fight". Note the armor on most of the horses.
Here you can see the yoke behind the horses, which gets strapped to the
bull's horns. Before each fight they would put up a sign, which
we think indicated where the bull came from, its weight and birth month.
There's a ritual to each fight, which can be read in detail here.
The bull runs out into the ring and looks around. The
balderilleros with the magenta capes then get it to run at them, and it
readily obliges. It is pretty fierce and frequently swipes the cape
away from the fighters hands.
Next, a trumpet sounds and the picadores come in on horseback and the
bull goes up to attack it. The horses are armored, but also drugged and
masked so they don't really know what's going on. They stab the bull in
its neck muscles to weaken it. This is where the first blood comes
out. Note the guys standing on the left of the ring in this
picture, next to the forward wall. When the bull charges the guys with
the capes, they frequently run behind that wall for protection.
Also note the sand in front of that wall. After the bull is killed, the
sand is used to cover up the blood on the ring for the next fight.
After a few more stages of fighting, including the inserting of barbed
lances, which start out white and then turn red with blood, the matador
comes out and starts to fight the bull one-on-one.
Toward the end of the fight, the matador attempts to kill the bull
rapidly with a single sword blow behind the bull's neck. In the
four fights we watched at the plaza, twice the matador succeeded in
killing with a single blow. On another occasion, the matador
missed and the bull did not die quickly. And on one other
occasion, the bull got tired and just lay down, so the matador went up
and gave the final blow without any serious risk. In the below
instance, the bull was very alert and on the defense.
This is the end of the first fight. The bull is exhausted and has its
head down toward the red cape with no attack imminent. Here you
can see the matador attacking with the sword-
And the final result. The bull dropped like a stone. The
crowd thought this was a good fight. The same rapid response was
not present in all the other fights we saw.
In another fight, the bull got up underneath the horse and pushed it
over. The horse appeared to be fine, though it took several
people to get it up on its feet.
After 4 bulls we had been sitting there for 2+ hours and I was getting
tired and had seen enough to get the gist. We headed back to the
hotel, and found the fight was televised and was still going on.
We watched the end of the last fight, in which the matador was nearly
gored by the bull, and was thrown over the bull's horns. It is a
So- bullfighting. There you have it.