I saw a movie on the net based on the novel ‘Blood and Sand’ starring Rita Hayworth and that handsome English star Tyrone Power. The movie based on the life of a bull fighter makes compelling viewing, but one is struck whether the sport has any meaning in the modern age where killing of animals is gaining ground.
Bull fighting is the traditional sport of Spain, Portugal and some Latin American countries like Mexico, Peru and Columbia. These were Spanish colonies and the sport mutated from Spain. Earlier it was also prevalent in South France also, but now is banned there.
Bull fighting is a ‘blood sport’. It’s a macho sport in the extreme and not for the faint hearted. The sport is over 2000 years old and traces its origin to the Roman rule. Over the centuries the sport has died away at most places except in a few countries which I have highlighted earlier. Many protagonists of the sport consider bull fighting as an art. The Bull fighters also known as toreros or matadors seek to make the killing an emotional affair with dare devil acts that help them strike a chord with the spectators. The sport lasts for more than an hour and the enraged bull is fought by the matadors. The matador may even catch the bull by the horns or drape himself in such a way that he avoids bull by a whisker. It does need skill and is not everyone’s cup of tea.
The final act is to kill the bull at the urging of the crowd. This is usually done by a single sword thrust called popularly an estocada. The bull fighters are always at great risk and have nerves of steel. It is not uncommon for a bull fighter to get gored or be injured. In Portugal killing of the bull is not allowed in the arena and the finale is to catch the bull by the horns. Later the bull is killed in the pen. The largest bull fighting stadium is in Mexico City called the Plaza Mexico, which can seat 48,000 spectators while the oldest is in Spain at La Maestranza.
Not many know that a form of bull fighting was allowed in Goa under Portuguese rule, but after its liberation from Portugal the sport is banned in Goa. The greatest bullfighter of all time is Juan Belmonte who perfected a style where he remained always a few inches away from the bull. It was a dare devilry that needs to be appreciated.
This male dominated sport has had a woman bull fighter as well. An American teen aged girl trained to be a bull fighter. The sport is however slowly dying away and even in Spain, Catalonia has banned the sport. Everybody can have his own opinion about bull fighting, but I feel that a modified version of the sport that avoids killing the bull can be developed. As it stands Bull fighting is a real he man sport and should be allowed to flourish, albeit with some modifications.