bullfight comprises six bulls and three matadors, each of whom fights
two bulls. The bulls are specially bred fighting bulls, usually
from the same bloodline and are not less than four years old with
a weight somewhere between 500 and 800 kilos. They must never have
faced a man on foot before they enter the bullring. The reason being
that if this is the case, they may charge the man, instead of the
cape. The selection of bulls is determined by drawing lots on the
morning of the corrida. The toreros perform in order of seniority
with the senior matador going first and fourth, the second-ranked
matador second and fifth and the least experienced fighting third
and sixth. If a matador is gored and unable to continue, the senior
must take his place and complete the fight. Each bullfight is divided
into three stages of thirds and lasts for around 20 minutes. A corrida
starts with a parade of all the contestants and bailiffs dressed
in 17th century costume, who salute the president of the fight.
The president is an important official who controls the fight and
can award trophies to a matador who performs well. A trumpet is
blown to announce the first fight when the matador and his team
enter the ring, and to signal the end of each stage. The bailiffs
receive the key to the gate which is thrown to them by the president
of the bullfight, through which the bulls enter the ring. The president
then waves a white handkerchief to signal the entrance of the first
bull into the ring.
Phase: During the preliminary phase the footmen, peones or capeadores
work the bull with large magenta and gold capes while carefully
appraising its agility, intelligence, dangers, sight and, most importantly,
its strength. It's very important for the matador to determine the
animal's qualities such as whether
it favours one horn or the other (eg hooks to the left) or swings
its horns up at the end of each pass. Sometimes a bull is reluctant
to fight in which case it will be tactfully withdrawn on the sign
of a green handkerchief from the president.
stage. This is when the picadores, mounted on padded and blindfolded
horses provoke the bull to attack them. The aim is to plunge their
lance into the bull's neck thus weakening its strong neck muscles.
This causes it to lower its head without which the matador couldn't
perform the coup de grace in the final part of the fight Second
stage. When the bull has been sufficiently weakened by the picadores,
the next stage commences, during which barbed darts decorated with
colourful ribbons are placed in the bull's neck. The
banderillero, carrying a banderilla in each hand, runs towards the
charging bull at an angle and places the banderillas in its neck.
These are not supposed to weaken the bull but rather correct any
tendency to hook, regulate the carriage of the head and slow it
stages. The final stage of a bullfight is called the suerte/tercio
del muerte and ends with the death of the bull. It begins with the
matador removing his hat, saluting the president and asking for
permission to perform and kill the bull. He may dedicate the bull
to somebody in the crown. Sometimes the matador will toss his hat
over his head, if it lands upside down, it is supposed to be bad
luck. The matador creates a series of passes with his red cape (of
which there are 40), bringing the animal closer to his body. The
two most basic passes include the right handed pass in which the
sword is used to expand the cloth and the left handed 'natural'.
After each pass the crowd usually shouts Olé!.
kill. When the matador realizes the bull is weak and unable to charge
much longer he will reach for his killing sword and seek to maneuver
it directly in front of him with its head down, so that he can administer
the death stroke. The matador looks down the sword to sight the
target, leans over the horns and attempts to insert it between the
cervical vertebra and into the bull's heart.
If the matador has performed well and made a quick, clean kill he
will be applauded, do a lap of honour and be showered with flowers,
hats, cushions and anything else to hand. The crowd demonstrates
its approval of a fight by waving white handkerchiefs which are
a signal to the president to award the matador a trophy, such as
an ear or tail. If the bull has put up a good fight, its carcass
will also receive a lap of honour and very occasionally if a bull
is exceptionally brave or strong and the matador is unable to kill
it, it may be spared and allowed to return to its stud farm to live
out its life in peace.