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The bullfight starts with a trumpet flourish and the bull charging pell mell down the chute.

Anger management is not a bull's strong suit.

The peones (the matador's footmen and bullfighters in training) calm things down a bit with capes, and eventually the bull stops running around like crazy. The matador does some high-speed work with the bull, and then the banderilleros literally, um, take a stab at the bull. Banderilleros are the guys carrying short spears -- banderillas.
The banderilla phase accomplishes two things: they piss off the bull and they also get some banderilleros really really close to the horns of the bull.

Sometimes the bull gets lucky, sometimes the banderillero gets lucky, but usually they both miss.

In the earlier fights of this afternoon, a few junior matadors gave things a try. These early guys were not as good as the later bullfighters, but they put in a good effort, often getting hurt in the process.

After a while the initial excitement, novelty and/or repulsion of the corrida wore off. The fights with the lower tier matadors became quite slow-going and boring to a bullfighting ignoramus.

Leading the bull back and forth, or, in the lingo: "dominating the bull".
This bull was bellowing and sticking out his tongue in exasperation and sheer exhaustion.
This fight is over, trumpets blare, and the matador takes some applause.
The picador.

This is one big and burly guy on an even bigger and burlier horse. Note the armored stirrups and the blood-tipped pike.

Something very bad is about to happen.

This is the part of the bullfight ritual that doesn't get advertised much to other cultures.

The picador cuts the bull's back with his pike, weakening the beast.

You can get an idea of how hard the bull is trying to gore and tip the horse by how far the horse is leaned over.
Now the horse has a thick pad which certainly dulls the effect of the sharp horns, sure. And yes, it is a really huge horse. Still, the horse's ribs are taking the full force of an enraged bull here, sometimes enough to lift the horse off its front hooves. That's really gotta hurt.

To make matters worse, the horse can not see what is going on. It is completely blindfolded. The horse would probably freak out something serious if it really knew what it did for a living.

And on to the closing fight with the star matador. This bull was still quite feisty, but this matador put on quite a show.

Call the fashion police-- there's a mad man around. Nice pink socks.

This bull was pretty worn out by this point. He had endured a bit of blood loss, a pike, a few spears and a lot of running about. He needed some time and encouragement from the matador to gather his strength.

Aggression is deeply encoded in the beast, and a little fight remains until the end. This instinct counter-productively drives the bull forward in an unsteady and stumbling half charge which the matador can easily dodge.

The key here is to get the dazed animal to do a few party tricks- turn and weave, and otherwise let the matador really show his stuff in close quarters.

This matador really taunted the bull to get him stirring.

Yes, the wet spot on the toro's back was blood from the picador and banderillas.

If you know this bullfighter's name, please let me know.

And in for the kill.

The idea here is to drive the sword into the bull's heart. The picador's pike opens up the thick skin and muscle, but if the matador doesn't plunge the sword in accurately and hard, the bull won't die right away. Sometimes the bull wanders about for a few seconds with the sword in him, slicing up his insides. If the sword-work is done right, however, the bull goes down instantly in a big heap and is carted off.

You don't want to know what happens if the sword doesn't kill the bull after 30 seconds or so. You really really don't.

The dour-looking fight president and other judges.
A few members of the Spanish royalty were spectators as well. I joined in with the paparazzi and snapped a few pictures, even though I had no idea who these people were.

If you know their names, please fill me in.

The final round of the bullfight I saw featured a matador on horseback. This is "Torear a Caballo", or in English, "Total Insanity."

I found this fight totally mad and beyond my comprehension. At a full trot, the bullfighter kept the bull's horns just a foot or so away from the horse's hind flank. He used only his hat, the horse's speed and slightly better maneuverability. Needless to say, the horse was motivated, and more than a little bit bug-eyed.

Utterly beyond crazy.

A few more bullfighting pictures, if you haven't had enought already. Bleah.


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