A bullfight officially begins with the entrance of the toro, but many preparations prior to the fight itself ensure that the bull’s basic ability for self-defense is virtually removed. Proponents of bullfighting frequently cite the bull’s fair opportunity to fight for his life. However, subtle but disabling methods are used to impair the bull’s senses and create the image that the public seeks. His eyes may be smeared with petroleum jelly, his horns dulled and his ears and nose stuffed with cotton. He is almost always presented to the matador in a heavily drugged state. The purpose of the sedation is to remove the bull’s initial flight defense and leave him with only the option of aggression.

The bull’s entrance is almost immediately followed by the use of the picas, sharpened metal rods decorated colorfully. Picas are meant to severely damage the shoulder muscles of the bull and cause intense pain without much blood. The bull’s immediate fearful reaction is meant to be misinterpreted as aggression. Generally this job is fulfilled by a picador, a bullfighter on horseback.

The matador then stabs the bull between the shoulder blades with a harpoon called a banderilla. The harpoon is carefully placed to strike sensitive nerves near the spinal cord. In an attempt to alleviate the excruciating pain, the bull lowers his head. The bull’s head-down stance, although it is a position of extreme pain rather than aggression, is meant to resemble the classic charging pose. After a prolonged amount of time during which the matador continually attacks the bewildered bull, the bull’s pain and blood loss cause him to collapse. Finally, the matador spears the bull in the heart, slices off an ear (generally while the bull is still conscious) as a token of his “valiance” and throws it to the cheering audience.


May 28, 2008. BullFight. Leave a comment.