For the bulls this is their first exposure to masses of people and to loud noise so they can become disconcerted. If that happens they can turn dangerous. The route starts at Santo Domingo on a slope that favours the bulls as their front legs are shorter than the hind ones. After about three hundred yards the bulls enter the Plaza Consistorial Mercaderes for a stretch of a hundred yards or so. Then there is a sharp right-hand turn of ninety degrees called the Estafeta Bend which leads into the longest stretch of the route, the Calle Estefeta, a narrow stretch three hundred yards long where the only protection is in the doorways.
The "encierro" became a global phenomenon after its inclusion as a climate moment in Ernest Hemingway's novel "The Sun Also Rises." Up to 2,000 participants, many of them tourists, run each day. Deaths are fairly uncommon but injuries are frequent, due to goring or being trampled by bulls or other runners in the narrow streets.
In medieval times, only the nobility could attend the bullfights. It is likely the daring young men, wanting to participate somehow, began the custom of running in front of the bulls. A nuance frequently missed by outsiders is that the point is not necessarily to run from the bulls but to lead them. Experienced runners take turns running in front of the bulls, each of which weighs around 1,300 pounds.
The chances of being hit or gored by a bull in the Pamplona Bull Run (encierro) is relatively small. However, being hit results in injuries ranging from bruises to goring (the bull’s horn piercing the body) and death. Death usually occurs when the horn digs into a runners lungs. There is no guarantee for avoiding collusion with a bull. Sometimes people get hit even when they are pressed into a doorway. You never know what catches the bulls attention and makes him turn, suddenly. The death toll since 1910 is 15 men, including a man who suffocated to death in a pile-up of runners. Besides the bull there is a likelihood of being trampled on by other runners. This is quite frequent and can result in serious injuries if runners pile up high. The worst bottleneck is the entrance to the Bullfight Arena (Plaza de Toros) which should be avoided, especially because there is no escaping from the bulls either. Dead Man’s Corner is also a dangerous spot that should be avoided by first time runners.
The course has a length of 826meters (0.5 miles) and the bulls take between 2.5 and 6 minutes to run it depending on whether they are separated or not. In the case that the pack gets separated a bull will have to be guided by expert runners into the bullfight arena. The Bull Run (encierro) start is on Santo Domingo street and finish is in the Bullfight arena (Plaza de Toros) at the end of Estafeta street.
Since the running of the bulls started, 13 people have been killed, all since 1924. Prior to 1924, there is no record of anyone being killed, mainly because no one kept records. In that year a young man received a mortal stab wound to his lungs just as the bulls were entering the ring. In 1995 Peter Matthews Tasio died on the horns of a bull, and the photograph was seen all over the world. In 1947 a bull named Semillero killed two people. In 1980 the bull Antioquio also killed two people, one at the town hall and another in the bullring. In 1997 the last person to dies was a Spanish onlooker who fell from a high stone wall.
As they have each July for centuries, the narrow, cobblestone streets of Pamplona, Spain, are thundering with the sound of charging bulls. The weeklong annual celebration originated as a religious festival to honor St. Fermin, the patron saint of this small city in Spain's northern Basque region. Today the festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world, many of whom are drawn to its world-famous encierro, or running of the bulls, which begins July 7 and was made famous outside Spain by Ernest Hemingway's 1926 classic The Sun Also Rises.
The running of the bulls, known as the "encierro," has a very long history, although, the current event in Pamplona, Spain, began around 1852 as part of the nine-day festival of San Fermin, usually in July. The tradition started when it was necessary to drive the bulls from their corral to the bullring. At first, drovers prodded the bulls along the way, but eventually the boys of the butchers guild, who were responsible for buying the bulls, began running in front of the bulls to show their courage. They felt if they didn't run and prove their bravery, no Pamplona girl would every marry them. That's how the traditions started.
The running of the bulls began as a way to move bulls from Pamplona's corral to its bullfighting ring. The animals would run the roughly half-mile stretch as children and adults herded them with shouts and sticks. The practice may date back as far as the 13th century, but it is known to have continued virtually uninterrupted since 1592, when the festival was moved from September to July. People are thought to have joined the herd sometime in the 1800s.
The running of the bulls in Pamplona has an ancient history going back to the days when the bulls were brought into the town to fight in the public square, which was also used as a bullring. In modern time the bulls are brought in at eleven o'clock the night before and kept in a corral. Six bulls make the run accompanied by one group of eight oxen with bells round their necks and followed by a further three oxen to sweep up any strays on the route.