The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of bullfighting in the country of Spain and to further see what the future has in store for bullfighting as part of the Spanish culture. This paper is also used to explain the steps and procedures that take place during a bullfight, the history of the fight, opposition that the event is facing, and the relation between Spanish bullfights and American rodeos. The goal of this paper is to allow readers to gain a better understanding of what a bullfight is and its role in the Spanish culture. It is concluded that while bullfighting is largely supported in Spain, it also has its fair share of critics, making the future unknown for the role of bullfighting in Spain for centuries to come.

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            Bullfighting has taken place in parts of the world since as early as the 1st century. Specifically, in Spain, it is seen to be a form of art, as well as part of the Spanish culture. More recently, it is facing more and more opposition from individuals in Spain, as well as outside groups who support the wellbeing of the animal. While the event has already been banned in some parts of the country, in others it is still thriving and seen as a large part of the culture. In today’s society, there are some locations that have weekly festivals around the event and it draws visitors from around the world, allowing it to serve not only as just a local event but also as a tourist event and a way for the local community to earn more of an income off the event as a whole. With that being said, in today’s society, everyone in Spain seems to have a strong opinion of the role of bullfighting in Spain’s culture and whether it should be part of the culture at all. What is the role of bullfighting in Spain’s culture and will it continue to play that role in the future?

Literature Review

Bullfight Procedures

Spain bullfights are known as corridas. During a corrida, there are generally six bulls and three matadors, which is used to describe the main bullfighter. Each matador is set to tackle two bulls, each in a twenty-minute timeframe, alongside their six assistants. A bullfighter and his/her six assistants are looked at as one collective team called a torero. While the event is called a “bullfight,” the event is seen more as an art and a dance between the matador and the bull, resulting in a sacrificing of the bull almost every time. The only time a bull is not sacrificed is when the bull is seen to be exceptional in courage and strength, in which time the bull will be pardoned and sent back to breed other bulls.

There are three stages that occur during a traditional bullfight. The stages are presented in order starting with the first stage which is el tercio de varas, the stage of pikes. The first stage is when the bull first enters the arena to be tested by the matador and the flagmen using the capote. A capote is a large magenta and yellow/blue cape. Two picadors, bullfights part of the matador’s team, then enter the arena on horseback with spear type rods. The horses are blindfolded and padded to avoid injury to the horses. The spears are inserted into the bull’s neck, weakening its shoulders, causing its head to drop. This stage is used to make the bull’s charge less dangerous, as well as allow the fighter to view the temperament and behavior of the bull. The second stage is el tercio de banderillas, known as the little harpoon stage. During this stage, three individuals on horseback each stick a pair of banderillas, decorated darts, into the bull’s shoulder. This stage is used to further weaken the bull. The third and final stage of the fight is el tercio de muerte, which is the longest and most known stage of the bullfight. In this stage, the matador kills the bull in an elegant manner. He/she has a red cape called a muleta, smaller and more lightweight than the capote from the earlier stage. The matador and the bull do what can be considered a dance, prior to the matador stabbing the bull to death. This stage displays the braveness of the bull, as well as art and courage of the matador.

The stages are followed by the trophy presentation. Trophies are awarded by the president, the chief assessor of the bullfight, however, the president takes into consideration the applause of the audience to allow everyone in attendance to participate in the bullfight. The president can ultimately award zero, one, two, or three trophies. The bullfighter will receive zero trophies if the audience and president do not think it was a very good performance of the bull or the bullfighter. If the matador presented a good performance, he/she will be awarded the first trophy, an ear that is cut from the bull. If the president finds the performance to be good and the killing of the bull to be superb, two ears will be cut and given as trophies. If the performance of the bull and the matador as a whole was perfect, which is very rarely seen, two ears and the tail will be cut and given as trophies.

Bullfighting History

            Bullfighting has occurred in Spain since the first evidence in 711 A.D., with the first official bullfight honoring the coronation of King Alfonso VIII. The first fights were conducted on horseback until King Felipe V ended this form of fight in the 18th century because he saw it as a blood sport that was in poor taste for nobles to practice and participate in. The king at the time convinced the pope of the Catholic Church to ban the sport which was a large cause considering the Catholic Church at the time even bred bulls to be used in bullfights. Following King Felipe V’s announcement and judgment of bullfights, many commoners in the public continued to participate in the traditional Spanish bullfight, adopting a standing approach with smaller weapons allowing it to serve more as an art than as a blood sport. The fighting occurred mostly with the lower class until Dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from the 1950s to the 1970s, openly allowed and publicly supported bullfighting, taking it one step further by naming it as Spain’s national sport.

Opposition to Bullfighting

            While bullfighting still widely occurs in Spain, it is widely facing opposition from many animal rights and animal activist groups both in Spain and worldwide. Bullfighting has already been banned in Argentina, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, Italy, the United Kingdom, and several Mexican states. Joining those countries are parts of Spain including Barcelona, where the last bullfight occurred in September 2011. The ban in Spain is being driven by groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Spain’s Asocianción para la Defensa de los Derechos del Animal (the Association for the Defense of the Rights of Animals or ADDA) who has an entire section of their organization devoted to protesting bullfighting. The two groups listed are largely responsible for protests and media involved in the anti-bullfighting campaign. A third group, the Partido Animalista Contra el Maltrato Animal, or Animalist Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA), is a Spanish animal-rights political party that works as a political party for the rights of animals. In terms of bullfighting, the party serves the purpose of trying to ban bullfighting legislatively in the country of Spain.

Bullfighting in the United States

            Bullfighting, as discussed, is only present in some European countries including Spain, Portugal, and parts of France, as well as Latin American countries such as Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela. Bullfighting also has different purposes and is looked at with varying public perspectives depending on the country that it is located in. For example, in Spain, bullfighting is looked at as a form of art. While in other countries, to this day, it is looked at as a blood sport. While bullfighting, as discussed, has never truly taken place in the United States, American rodeos are seen somewhat as a spinoff of the bullfights still seen in some countries today. In American rodeos, there is a section known as bull riding where there are two athletes in every 8-second ride, the bull rider and the bull. The part of the rodeo known as “bullfighting” is when a rodeo clown distracts the bull to allow the bull rider to safely exit the arena without injuring the bull rider, rodeo clown, or the bull.

            The American rodeo has started to make its way to Spain, to serve as an alternative to the traditional Spanish bullfight due to the fact that ultimately the bull is not killed or in most cases even harmed during a rodeo. Many groups have already begun presenting shows in the country, having some of these shows take place in bullfighting arenas during the offseason that comes along with bullfighting. However, the rodeos in Spain are receiving just as much criticism as the bullfights, just from opposing groups. While some enjoyed the alternative that was offered, others did not believe it would last long in Spain. In a Spanish newspaper, El Mundo, a commentator argued that rodeos in Spain are as culturally misplaced as bullfighting in the United States would be.


Since this was a research paper, it was first decided that some background information was needed on the subject. The researcher first did a basic google search, reading through the first few pages of information to gain a basic understanding of the most prominent viewpoints. Once she realized that she could not get all of the information she needed from a basic google search, she decided to begin looking for peer-reviewed articles that would give her factual information, rather than just opinions.

She found the best source of peer-reviewed to be on The Ohio State University’s online library database. With the help of a local librarian, she continued her research with the following steps:

1.         Using the internet to access https://library.osu.edu/

2.         Selecting the term “Articles”

3.         Typing in the following searches: “bullfighting,” “Spanish bullfighting,” “bullfighting history,” and “public perception of bullfighting”

4.         Clicking the filtering options box and choosing “peer-reviewed” and “downloadable article”

While the number of results differed per search, many articles that were found were found to be credible and useful for her research. She then resulted back to google in order to gain more information, this time using Google Scholar. She took the following steps to access more information:

1.         Using the internet to access https://scholar.google.com

2.         Typing in the following searches: “bullfighting,” “Spanish bullfighting,” “bullfighting history,” and “public perception of bullfighting”

3.         Choosing articles with titles that seemed relevant to the type of research she was conducting

4.         Verifying that each source she selected was peer-reviewed

After gathering information and data from peer-reviewed articles, the researcher proceeded to result to google to find additional information that was needed on the subject itself. The researcher also studied abroad to the country of Spain where she visited a breeding bull farm and bullfighting arena where she was able to gather the opinions of those who are surrounded by bullfighting, supporters, and the culture that comes with it.

While the researcher found a good amount of valuable resources for this research paper, she also faced many challenges along the way. The most difficult challenge the researcher faced while conducting her research was the overwhelming number of articles that were opinion based rather than supported by actual facts. Along with opinions, many of the actual factual articles were hidden from view, with a large few that would have had to have been purchased in order to access. Many researchers in this field only publish their research if the reader is willing to pay for it. The third biggest challenge that the researcher faced was the language barrier that presented itself with much of the research. A large amount of the research published is done so in the Spanish language and the researcher had difficulties finding the same articles in the English language.


            What is the role of bullfighting in Spain’s culture and will it continue to play that role in the future? A large amount of the research in favor of bullfighting has been published in the Spanish language, due to the fact that a large majority of people in favor and research in favor of bullfighting are located in Spanish speaking countries, such as Spain, where bullfighting occurs as part of the country’s culture. While much of the public who did not grow up with bullfighting as part of their culture, find it to be a much more negative “sport” and are more likely to do research into the more negative parts of the industry. Overall, there is not much factual based research as a whole into the emotional and physiological impacts that bullfighting has on the bull itself. Most of the research conducted is on public perception of the event itself.

            It seems that those who support bullfights are the ones who grew up with it as a large part of their culture. On the flipside, those who are opposed to it, are those who did not grow up around it and are looking at it from the outside in. With that, many opposing groups are fighting to have bullfighting eliminated from Spain’s culture as a whole. It is currently unknown whether future progress will be made in favor of or against bullfights in Spain’s culture. What is known, is that until otherwise noted, bullfights will continue to serve as a major part of the lives of Spain’s people.


            In conclusion, bullfighting throughout history has been used as an iconic symbol of the Spanish culture and will continue to serve as that symbol for centuries to come. The question still stands whether or not the actual fights will continue to take place for those coming centuries or whether it will simply be a symbol of the society’s past. With animal rights and animal activist groups gaining popularity worldwide, it is safe to say that the topic of bullfights is not one that will quickly be pushed under the rug.

            In the future, more research can be done to see exactly how much pain is caused to the bull throughout its life and in the arena itself for the public to see. In addition, research can be done within the country to see exactly how the public as a whole feel about the event. It is difficult to see the long-term outcome for bullfighting for the fact that it is not something that can simply be compared to other countries because bullfighting is not a part of the culture of very many other countries.

            For readers, the recommendation can be made to watch a bullfight for oneself, whether it be online or in person, to get an idea of how one views the fight specifically. However, following the viewing, it is important to keep in mind the cultural difference that occurs for those who grew up with the event being a major part of their life, whether that be as a participant, bull breeder, or simply as a spectator.