It’s that time of year again. Time to run as fast as your legs will carry you, while being chased by a dozen energetic bulls. Yes, we are in the midst of the famous nine-day San Fermin Festival in Pamplona.
The San Fermin Festival takes place every year from July 6-14. Each morning (starting on the 7th) at 8:00 AM, the bulls are released and the chase is on. Anyone can participate in the running of the bulls as long as you obey a few rules: you must be at least 18, you must not taunt the bulls, you must run in the same direction as the bulls, and you must be sober. If it all sounds dangerous, well, it is. There are between 200 and 300 injuries every year (most of them minor).
Pamplona is certainly the most famous of the running-of-the-bulls (encierro in Spanish), but the event actually takes place in towns all across Spain, plus in some places in Mexico and southern France. As far as I can tell, Pamplona is the only one where the event is broadcast live on national TV.
The original purpose (and still the purpose) of the event is to bring the bulls from a holding pen on one end of town to the bullring at the other. As you would expect, the bull-running tradition is controversial. PETA and other animal rights groups have opposed the practice for years. Recently, PETA has held a “running of the nudes” event on the day preceding the festival, as a protest. I think that one needs no explanation.