The Bulls Are Coming
By, Melissa Bryant
In the Middle Ages, Spaniards initially used ‘The encierro’ or ‘running of the bulls,’ as a means to transport bulls from an off-site corral to a bullring where they would participate in another noted Spanish tradition — the bullfight. The spectacle — usually held in towns and villages across Spain, France, Portugal and a few other Spanish-speaking countries — gained worldwide notoriety when it was depicted in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. Now the tradition has crossed the pond for its first U.S. tour thanks to Rob Dickens, Chief Operating Officer of The Great Bull Run.
Centuries of Tradition
Part celebration, part ceremony, the 14-century-old tradition of the running of the bulls is adapted from the ancient Spanish practice of men running with a dozen or so bulls across a sectioned-off course through public town streets. Over time, this custom evolved into the highlight of the Fiesta de San Fermin — a 7-day festival held every year in Pamplona, Spain, from July 7-14 in honor of patron Saint Fermin.
Dickens says the appeal of this venturesome dash is the same for Americans as it is for Spaniards. “You’re putting yourself out there in very serious harm’s way, mortal danger, and that’s not something that you get to experience every day. For example, with a roller coaster or some other simulated type of rush, there’s not true danger. Very rarely in this day and age do people get to test themselves against true danger.”
Although the American running of the bulls uses rodeo bulls, which are less aggressive than their Spanish fighting bull counterparts, they are still nothing to clown about. On the low end, rodeo bulls weigh in at 1,000 pounds and still threaten runners with the possibility of goring, ramming and trampling. Rob Dickens’ team took several measures to ensure the bulls were healthy and safe at all times.
Bulls and runners are allowed to run only on dirt or grass to prevent slips and falls. The bulls are accustomed to large crowds of humans and trained to run the course beforehand, making them less fearful. Lastly, a veterinarian is on-site at all times to monitor the bulls’ health and treatment.
More than 8,000 spectators and participants came out for the first stop on the American Great Bull Run tour in Petersburg, Virginia, on Saturday August 24, 2013. The all-day event closed with Tomato Royale — an American take on La Tomatina — an event where participants battle in a food fight using thousands of pounds of tomatoes.
Ready to grab life by the horns? Visit thegreatbullrun.com and register for one of the bull runs going on now through July 2014 in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Dade City, Lake Elsinore, Mohnton, Chicago, Petersburg and the Twin Cities — you’ve had fair warning.