Facts About the Running of the Bulls in Spain

by Nancy Hayden
Running with the bulls attracts thrill seekers from around the world.

Running with the bulls attracts thrill seekers from around the world.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Thrill seekers crave the high that an adrenaline rush bring. This is achieved by taking part in activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping or even the Pamplona bull run. Each year, thrill seekers take part in the traditional running of the bulls, risking their lives to run at the head of a charging herd of bulls.


Running with the bulls dates back to the 14th century, as bullfighting has been traced back to 1385 in Pamplona. The bulls had to be transported to the arena, giving rise to a tradition whereby people ran ahead of the animals. King Charles II of Spain tried to ban the tradition, but failed when bullfighting became an annual event held in conjunction with a livestock festival. In 1591 it was combined with the San Fermin festival to create a week-long event around early July. For the early centuries of the bull run, it was unsanctioned and discouraged. By 1856, authorities decided to just accept the tradition and it was named encierro, as it is still known today.


Each morning from July 7 to July 14, the runners congregate at the bottom of Santo Domingo between Navarra Museum and Plaza de los Burgos. A rocket is fired to signal the release of the bulls and for the runners to begin the half mile run toward the bull ring. The runners run to dead man's corner before they make a sharp right onto Calle de la Estafeta, which they follow south to the arena.

Fatalities and Gorings

The event has led to countless deaths over the centuries, especially before the running of the bulls became a regulated spectacle. Since the event has been run on its current course, only 15 recorded fatalities have taken place directly connected to the bulls, as of July 2011. The first recorded death was in 1924 and the most recent was in 2003. Over the years the number of gorings, which are injuries caused by the bulls' horns, are countless, but the most recorded at one event was eight on July 12, 2004.

Rules and Tips

The rules for entry are simple: you have to be over 18 years old and be part of the crowd in the starting section of the course. Any runners not in the starting section are removed to avoid over-crowding. Participants should be neither tired or drunk as this will inhibit their ability to stay safe. While running, runners should look around for hazards to avoid tripping, and if they do trip they should stay in place and cover their heads. It is safer to stay down than to try and stand once the event is in progress. Trying to distract or get the attention of a bull is also to be avoided, as the animal is just running with the herd and not aiming to hurt anyone. If a person pulls a bull from the herd, it may become aggressive and attack.

Photo Credits

  • Denis Doyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images