kids encyclopedia robot

Bullfighting facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
The initial procession of a corrida, with three teams of bullfighters.
Bull attacks matador
The suerte de capote: matador uses cape to cause the bull to pass him.
Matador in the tercio de muerte
Edouard Manet - The Bullfight
Edouard Manet: The Bullfight
Marià Fortuny i Marsal Bullfight
Marià Fortuny: Wounded Picador

Bullfighting is an old sport. Today it is mostly done in Spain, and in Portugal, and some countries of South America.

The largest bullring is the Plaza México in central Mexico City, which seats 48,000 people, and the oldest is the La Maestranza in Seville, Spain, which was first used for bullfighting in 1765.

The Spanish bullfight (Corrida de toros) is a fight to the death. The modern bullfight has a ritual. It has three distinct stages, the start of each being signalled by a trumpet. The bullfighters (Toreros) enter the arena in a parade, to Paso doble music. The rules, costumes and traditions were sorted out by Paquiro (Francisco Montes Reina, 13 January 1804 – 4 April 1851, the greatest matador of his time.

A team of bullfighters is seven men. The leader is the matador, and he has six assistants, who play roles in the drama. Bullfighters' costumes are inspired by 18th century Andalusian clothing. Matadores ('those who kill the bull') are easily seen by the gold of their traje de luces ('suit of lights').

At the end comes the tercio de muerte ('the third of death'). The matador re-enters the ring alone with a small red cape, and a sword. The cape called a muleta. The matador uses his cape to attract the bull in a series of passes. The faena is the performance with the cape. The faena ends with a final series of passes in which the bullfighter tries to move the bull into position. He then stabs it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. The act of thrusting in the sword is called an estocada.

If the matador gets it wrong, he may be gored by the bull's horns, and killed. This does happen: some very famous matadors have died in the ring. When the great matador Manolete was killed in the ring at the age of 31, three days of official national mourning were held. Bullrings do have an infirmary with an operating room, for the immediate treatment of bullfighters with horn wounds.

There is great opposition to the bullfight from animal welfare organisations. There are also versions of the bullfight in which the animal is unharmed.


Bullfighting has influenced all forms of art and culture. Ernest Hemingway said of bullfinghting: "Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honour". Spanish dance and musical forms such as the paso doble and flamenco are heavily influenced by the spectacle of the bullfight.


Muerte del maestro
Muerte del Maestro (Death of the Master) – José Villegas Cordero, 1884
Pfeiffer Donostia
Stuffed bull head in a bar in San Sebastián

Spanish-style bullfighting is usually fatal for the bull, and it is also dangerous for the matador. Matadors are usually gored every season, with picadors and banderilleros being gored less often. With the discovery of antibiotics and advances in surgical techniques, fatalities are now rare, although over the past three centuries 534 professional bullfighters have died in the ring or from injuries sustained there. Most recently, Iván Fandiño died of injuries he sustained after being gored by a bull on June 17, 2017 in Aire-sur-l'Adour, France.

Some matadors, notably Juan Belmonte, have been seriously gored many times: according to Ernest Hemingway, Belmonte's legs were marred by many ugly scars. A special type of surgeon has developed, in Spain and elsewhere, to treat cornadas, or horn-wounds.

The bullring has a chapel where a matador can pray before the corrida, and where a priest can be found in case a sacrament is needed. The most relevant sacrament is now called "Anointing of the Sick"; it was formerly known as "Extreme Unction", or the "Last Rites".

The media often reports the more horrific of bullfighting injuries, such as the September 2011 goring of matador Juan José Padilla's head by a bull in Zaragoza, resulting in the loss of his left eye, use of his right ear, and facial paralysis. He returned to bullfighting five months later with an eyepatch, multiple titanium plates in his skull, and the nickname 'The Pirate'.

Until the early twentieth century, the horses were unprotected and were commonly killed. The horses used were old and worn-out, with little value. Starting in the twentieth-century horses were protected by thick blankets and wounds, though not unknown, were less common and less serious.

However, the danger lurks not only from a bull, but also from other causes, such as too weak infrastructure. One of such cases happened in 2022 in Colombia, when several people were killed and more than 300 were injured after a stand collapsed during the bullfight. The incident happened in El Espinal, Tolima, in central Colombia.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Tauromaquia para niños

kids search engine
Bullfighting Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.