Torero: The Bullfighting Culture

Often linked to Rome with the human vs. animal events held prior to the gladiatorial sport bullfighting actually traces its beginnings to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice. However, several theories abound indicating it may have been introduced in the 11th or earlier by the Emperor Claudius as an alternative sport after placing a ban of gladiatorial games. An additional theory indicates today’s bullfighting found its roots on wars between fractions. It was a practice of one fraction to set the bulls tail on fire to cause a stampede of the herd into the opposing army, they in turn used swords and horse in order to survive the attack.

Bullfighting, as preparation for war, was often used for training. Fights were also celebrated at religious festivities and royal weddings. In approximately 1726, the Spanish introduced fighting on foot, and later the use of capes was added as an aide to position the bulls. At this point the nobility then turned the sport over to poor commoners. This then became a way for them to gain fame and fortune. With a rise in popularity, dedicated rings were then constructed. Although, initially square subsequent rings were round in order halt placing the action in a corner.

Traditionally considered a male sport, with much resistance and hostility, a few women have become matadors. Initially referred to as “novilleros” toreros train by fighting young bulls. A special match, referred to as the Alternative, is held in which they are presented to the crowd as a matador de toros and may then begin fighting mature bulls. Matador, Picador and Banderillero are the fighters in today’s ring. A Matador generally stands erect and motionless until inches from the bull. A technique started by Juan Belmonte Garcia in 1908 and remains the style bullfighters are currently judged.

A Picador enters on horseback and uses a lance in an attempt to test the bull’s strength and locate the favored side of the bull. Spanish law dictates the shape of the lance to prevent considerable damage to the bull. Initially, horses carried no protection into the ring, in 1928 a mattress-like form, known as a peto, was added. The Banderillero attempts to place colorful barbed pointed sticks into the bull’s shoulder while running perilously close to the bull. Judged on form and bravery many banderillero’s go on to become matadors.

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