The History of Bullfighting – Tradition or Enjoyment of Tragedy

The History of Bullfighting - Tradition or Enjoyment of Tragedy

The history of bullfighting has to be told with lots of facts that get misconstrued throughout the years.  One example, the bulls used for the actual fights are not starved for the fight, instead a specially bred charging bull is used for the spectacle that has a natural penchant to charge at moving objects-the fact still remains that an innocent animal is plucked, culled and ultimately executed for the amusement of a gawking rabble.

The history of bullfighting stretches back almost 2,000 years and its roots are archaic and planted in a time of un-enlightenment and barbarism. Not that we are all that much smarter nowadays but it seems almost insane to still practice a spectacle that has such primal origins.

The History of Bullfighting – A Brief Review

As far as historians can tell, the origins of bullfighting emerged from the Spanish War of Reconquest.  When the fighters grew weary from battle, they would engage in slightly less brutal practices as recreation.  They hunted game like deer and bear but even slaying a bear was not enough of a thrill for these ancient warriors.  Instead, they took to fighting the Iberian bull whose traits include aggression and a willingness to go to their death fighting.  This became a sport and soon, Spanish kings were organizing bullfights for their coronations and other important ceremonies.

The sport carried on throughout the centuries and grew to what it is today which is not very different from what it was as far back as the 1700’s.  Although when most people think of bullfighting they immediately think of Spain, the sport is legal and enjoyed by fans in other countries such as France, Peru, Ecuador, Portugal, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela.  In fact the largest venue for bullfights resides in Mexico City, Mexico.

The History of Bullfighting - Tradition or Enjoyment of Tragedy

The History of Bullfighting – Tradition or Enjoyment of Tragedy

The Reasoning Behind the Fights

Fans of bullfighting cite a number of aesthetics that make the practice enjoyable.  The contest isn’t about winning or losing, it isn’t about who gets gored and who doesn’t, it’s not even about whether the bull dies or not.  Instead proponents of bullfighting say that is an elegant dance between man and beast.  The thrill is in seeing the skill and tact of the fighter who attempts to get as close to the bull’s charging horns as possible without being demolished by them.

The whole scene is very decadent and opulent: the matadors enter the arena wearing intricately embroidered suits that cost thousands of dollars.  There is a pageantry about the whole ordeal but also a savage likeness to the gladiator fights of ancient Rome that pit human against both animal and other humans.

Bullfighting is not a sport.  It is a show.  I for one abhor it altogether and cannot comprehend those who attend bullfights knowing that they will more than likely see the slaughter of an innocent animal.  While many fans say it is not the actual killing that is the main attraction but rather the composure in the face of danger, the grace, skill and elegance of the matador, the kill move is still a very precise maneuver that is lauded if done particularly well.

There are entire fairs dedicated to bullfighting and one example is the San Fermín Festival in Spain.  The history of bullfighting – the tradition or enjoyment of tragedy?  This is a question I answer with barbarism.  For however refined and civilized we humans can claim to now be, we still take part in this practice that stems from a very dark, violent and base era of history.

About Brandon Gonzo

I grew up in Los Angeles, privileged by the hard work of my single Latino mother. While most of my peers were still wondering what they wanted to do, I was fortunate and foolish enough to know with certainty I wanted to write, and there was little anyone else could do or say to try and divert me.
I am as passionate about turning words into prose as I was when I was first stunned by the literary fluency of authors like Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson.

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