san fermin, running of the bulls, bulls trampling
Ana Castro/AP
Revelers are stepped over by Penajara ranch fighting bulls during the San Fermin Festival, July 7, 2010, in Pamplona, Spain.

A Clean Record for This Year’s Running of the Bulls

July 15, 2010 11:30 AM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
The dozens of injuries at the annual running of the bulls at the San Fermin Festival stress the dangers of a tradition kept alive in the Spanish region of Pamplona since the 14th century.

Festival to Close With No Fatal Gorings

This year's San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain, had its eighth and final bull run on Wednesday, amidst throngs of revelers gathered to commemorate the event. Though one Spanish man remains in serious condition after being gored in the chest and thigh, there have been no fatalities this year.

The final bull run was the most dangerous of the eight, as one of the bulls became separated from the pack and made at least three runs backward. “Bulls are at their most dangerous when the pack splits up,” explains Manu Fernandez of The Associated Press. Nine people were injured, including three by goring.

Each of the eight runs end in a bullfight in which famous matadors display their skills. During Monday's event, bullfighter Julian Lopez Escobar, known as “El Juli,” received an injury in the scrotum. He was hospitalized and later released on Tuesday.

The Huffington Post published a series of photographs depicting scenes of conflict between the runners and the bulls. A practice that for most presents an irrational exposure to danger has become an event that draws thousands of visitors to the narrow streets of Pamplona every year.

Background: Deaths at the running of the bulls

Last year's San Fermin Festival in Pamplona ended with the death of 27-year-old Daniel Jimeno Romero, a native from Alcala de Henares vacationing in Pamplona with his family. Jimeno Romero was killed by Capuchino, a 1,130-pound bull that separated from the pack and became frightened and overly aggressive.

Maria Kutz, health minister of the government of Navarra, explained that Jimeno Romero “suffered an intra-clavicle injury to the neck which caused him to lose a lot of blood and he was admitted to hospital suffering cardiac arrest.”

The Spanish paper El Pais published an amateur video of the tragedy, which showed Jimeno Romero tripping over other runners in his attempts to escape the bull, falling and failing to exit through one of the protective fences. The bull managed to wound him fatally in the neck with his right horn. Jimeno Romero bled heavily while paramedics attempted to save him.

Fatal gorings have become an unfortunate yet common occurrence during the annual festival. Jimeno Romero was the 15th person to have died since record-keeping for the festival began in 1924.

In 2003, 63-year-old local Fermin Etxeberri was trampled by one of the charging bulls and died after spending several months in a coma. In 1995, Matthew Tassio, a 22-year-old American, suffered a fatal goring.

Tassio “died because he did not know bullrunning's cardinal rule: ‘when you fall, stay down,’” wrote Scottish paper The Herald. In 2008, an accident not directly related with the run claimed another life, as an Irishman fell tp his death from a rampart in the city.

Historical Context: The Festival of San Fermin

The conservative Spanish town of Pamplona undergoes a sensational transformation every year on July 6 when it hosts the festivities of San Fermin, attracting thousands of enthusiastic visitors from across the globe.

In spite of the drinking, dangerous bull running and general revelry, runners dressed in white with red handkerchiefs around their necks still pay homage to San Fermin, an eighth-century martyr who was beheaded for advocating Christianity during Muslim rule. How? By “pelting each other with eggs, flour, saffron and fizzy wine,” the Sunday Herald reports.

The original festival was held on Oct. 10, but as its religious spirit was diminished by the inclusion of music, dancing, banquets and bullfights, the Pamplona Council proposed that it be moved to July 7.

The first official celebration of the new festival of San Fermin, which merged the religious, commercial and bullfighting festivals, occurred in 1591. Foreign participants in the festival began to appear in records dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Opinion & Analysis: Risk-taking might be genetic

“I'm not a psychologist, but on paper this festival is a disaster,” a senior police officer told The Herald. “Hundreds of thousands of people who don't speak each other's languages drink themselves to oblivion.”

As if running with the bulls isn’t dangerous enough, intoxication would only seem to add to the risk involved, leaving many to wonder why people would risk their lives in such a reckless manner.

Researchers are learning more about the brains of extreme risk-takers, those whose seemingly insane pursuits are not deterred by the threat of danger or global economic instability. Scientists have determined that the proclivity for reckless behavior is in our genes, and may be responsible for human evolution.

Those who were “genetically inclined to seek out the better-tasting protein, the greener pastures, the prettier mates from unfamiliar territory” have propelled the human race forward, Florence Williams suggests in Outside Magazine.

Related Topic: Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”

In 1926, American writer Ernest Hemingway helped to make the festival of San Fermin internationally famous with the publication of his novel “The Sun Also Rises.” The novel describes the annual festival in Pamplona through the eyes of a World War I veteran. According to SparkNotes, the bullfighting episodes in the novel are deeply symbolic, resonating with various themes and characters throughout the novel. 

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