History of Bullfighting- Origins.
Bullfighting in Spain seems to have its origins during the 8 long centuries of the Spanish
War of Reconquest (711-1492 A.D.) when the knights of both the Moors and
Christians would organize hunting competitions as a respite from killing
each other and they soon realized that of all the prey the Iberian bull
offered the greatest challenge as unlike other animals it preferred to die
fighting rather than fleeing.
It seems probable that a nobleman captured a few of these brave beasts
and took them to his village in order to recreate the thrill of the hunt before
his admiring subjects. Thus some remote part of Medieval Spain saw the
origins of what is today the national Spanish spectacle of bullfighting.
The history of bullfighting recalls that the first real bullfight, or
corrida, took place inn 1133 at Vera, Logroño in honour of the coronation
of King Alfonso VIII. From then on they became a popular pass time at many
important events and continued after the wars of reconquest had finished
offering noblemen an outlet to demonstrate the zeal and daring with which he
defeated the Moors.
King Philip II however found the spectacle disgusting and enlisted the
help of Pope Pius V to get it banned by papel decree. This, together with
the growing pleasures to be had at the royal court, resulted in
the nobility giving up their interest in bullfighting but not so the
peasantry who took it enthusiastically to heart and it thus became a symbol
of something genuinely Spanish.
By 1726 they were ready to adopt their first bullfighting hero in the from of
Francisco Romero from Ronda. He was a man of humble origins who became the first
professional bullfighter in Spain. With him the corrida developed into
more of an art form. He introduced the estoque, sword, and the muleta,
the small cape used in the last part of the fight as it is more easily
History of Bullfighting- the Modern Corrida.
Today’s bullfight is much as it was developed in the time of Romero.
Normally 6 bulls and three matadors are required for an afternoons
corrida. The three matadors dressed in their trajes de luces (suit of lights)
enter the arena accompanied by their banderilleros and picadors and the
strains of a traditional paso doble. The door to the totil, or bull
pen, is opened and one of the bulls emerges.
The matador greets it with a series of manoeuvres, or passes, with a
large cape; these passes are usually verónicas, the basic cape
manoeuvre (named after the woman who held out a cloth to Christ on his
way to the crucifixion). Contrary to popular believe bulls are actually
colour blind and they go for the cape not because it is red but because it
The second part of the bullfight is the job of the mounted picadors who
lance the bull, normally three times. Then a trumpet blows and the
banderilleros on foot move in to place their banderillas ( brightly
coloured barbed sticks) in the beast’s shoulders to get it to lower it’s head
for the kill. After this a further trumpet sounds which signals
the faena or final phase of the bullfight. The cloth of the muleta is draped over
the estoque and here the matador shows his skill in the passes that he makes.
These consist of the trincherazo which is normally the opening pass performed
on one knee then there is the pase de la firma in which the matador
remains motionless whilst passing the cloth under the bulls nose. The
manoletina involves holding the muleta behind the body and the natural
pass is one in which the danger to the matador is increased as the
estoque is removed from the muleta this reduces the target size and
tempting the bull to charge at the larger object–the bullfighter.
After performing these passes for several minutes during which time the matador
tries to excite the crowd by moving closer and closer to the horns, he finally
and lines up the bull for the kill.
The blade has to pass between the
shoulder blades and as the space between them is small the feet of the bull
have to be together as the bullfighter rushes over the horns. The kill
is properly performed by aiming straight over the bull’s horns and
plunging the estoque between the withers into the region of the aorta.
This requires considerable skill and discipline, not to mention a certain
amount of raw courage, and for this reason is known as “el memento
de la verdad” or the moment of truth.