Pamplona Bull Run in Spain

The San Fermin Festival takes place from the 6th to the 14th of July every year in Pamplona and is home to the famous Pamplona Bull Run (The Encierro). The festival takes place at night when fireworks kick off the festivities which go on throughout the night. The fiestas see people gathering from all over the world to honour San Fermin, the patron saint of Navarra.

The Running of the Bulls originated from the need to get the bulls from outside the city into the bullring but is now just a huge spectacle that is at the heart of the San Fermin Festival festivities.

To run the Encierro requires cool nerves, quick reflexes and a high level of physical fitness. People do get hurt during the Encierro so it is not for the faint hearted! The Encierro starts at the corral in Calle Santo Domingo when the San Cernin church clock strikes 8am. Two rockets are launched and then the bulls charge behind the runners for 903 yards to the bullring, taking about three or four minutes.

The run goes through four streets in the old part of the city; Santa Domingo, the Town Hall Square, Mercaderes and Estafeta, and a section called Telefonica. When all the bulls are in the bullring a third firework is fired, followed by a fourth and fifth rocket when all the bulls are safely in the corral inside the bullring. This marks the end of the Bull Run.

Before the Bull Run starts the runners stand just a few yards from where the bulls are waiting to be released, raise their rolled-up newspapers and chant to the image of San Fermin which is placed in a recess in the wall in the Cuesta de Santo Domingo. Silence then falls and the words ‘A San Fermin pedimos, por ser nuestro patron, nos guie en el encierro dandonos su bendicion’ (We ask San Fermin, being our patron saint, to guide us in the bull run and give us his blessing) can be heard. This chant can be heard 3 times before 8am when the corral gate is opened.

When the run is over the chant ‘Viva San Fermin, Gora San Fermin’ can be heard. Six fighting bulls that will take part in the evening bullfight begin the run, accompanied by a group of Mansos who act as guides to help the bulls cover the route. A couple of minutes later a second group of bulls which are slower and smaller than the first group are released and lead any bulls that have been left behind towards the bullring.

A number of Pastores (bull shepherds) run behind the bulls to stop the bulls from turning and running backwards. Their only protection is a long stick! Other important people involved are the Dobladores (usually ex-bullfighters) who wait in the bullring with capes to help push the bulls towards the corral and help the runners run to the sides of the bullring.

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