Bullfighting: Cultural Heritage or Barbaric Murder?

Bullfighting or “Tauromachia” Is a tradition that came to Mexico with the Spanish Conquistadors that can be tracked all the way back to ancient Greece around 400 B.C.

Back in the island of Crete, the tradition was to jump over a charging bull, spin in the air and manage to land on your feet, the difference was that in that time it was a religious offering, and was called bull-leaping.

Bull leaping in Crete (Google)

Throughout the centuries this practice spread across Europe to places like modern Spain, France and Portugal. In medieval Spain bullfighting was considered a noble sport exclusive for people of influence. The bull was released into a closed arena where a single horse mounted fighter armed with a lance would stab the bull to death.

Tauromaquia de Goya (Google)
Tauromaquia de Goya (Google)

Around the XVI Century, in places such as Sevilla, Spain, bull killing started to evolve, and instead of nobles on horseback, ordinary villagers started to “fight” the bulls on foot, armed with nothing but a cape and a sword.

These brave men became the first “Matadores” (literal translation: “killers”); and their fame made people from all over Spain to come to see them in action. Bleachers were built outside the slaughterhouses, spectators were willing to pay to see the matadores risk their lives against the bulls, and that is how the modern “Fiesta Brava” was born.


Now in present day Mexico, this “tradition” is considered by many, part of our cultural heritage and by many others a brutal torture form for morbid entertainment.

This is a very controversial topic around the world and we want to explain a little bit more about this so called “art”.


What is bullfighting? Bullfighting consists of one Toro de lidia (fighting Bull) and one Matador (bullfighter) fighting in a ring call “Plaza de Toros .

Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza at Plaza de Toros Merida (Google)
Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza at Plaza de Toros Merida (Google)

Toro de Lidia. All bulls are part of an industry, a “Toro de Lidia” is an investment. In order to fully train the bull, a special training is needed and it is a process that takes years. For a bull to see the arena a special set of characteristics are required, therefore, very few specimens make it to the big Plaza.

Behind every bull there is a team of people proud of their work that represent a ranch. Only the strongest, bravest and meanest animals are selected to fight. This kind of bull will only and exclusively be used for fighting and breeding purposes.

Toro de Lidia (Fighting Bull) EFE
Toro de Lidia (Fighting Bull) EFE

Matador.  The Matador is the star of the event, he is the main reason why people go to the “Plaza de Toros”, his movements impress the audience, along with his courage and bravery. Also as part of the tradition they wear brightly and colorful outfits.

Each time the Matador enters the arena he knows that his life is at risk, he understands that, the moment he steps into that circle and faces a 500 kilogram beast full with rage and testosterone, it becomes clear to him that one small mistake can cost him his life.

Matadors are said to be born with a talent, however, not everybody can be a matador. In fact there are schools for “toreros”, mostly in Mexico and Spain where dozens of kids are trained to become bullfighters, but like the NAVY SEALS, of the hundreds that apply, only a handful make it to the end.

Esceuela de Toreros (Google)
Esceuela de Toreros (Google)

Renowned bullfighters are like rock stars in their own country, they earn large amounts of money for each performance.

Spanish Matador "El Juli" (Google)
Spanish Matador “El Juli” (Google)

For some people bullfighting, is not that different from hunting. In both you´re killing an animal, the animal “suffers” and the difference is that hunting is socially acceptable. Others argue that usually, when you go hunting,

  • First, you eat what you kill. Is not about “to have fun killing something”
  • Second,  the animal if hunted properly, doesn’t suffer nearly as much as a bull.
  • Third, hunting for many people is a necessity to survive.

Either you stand with one opinion or the other, we can all concur that at the end of the day an animal is killed.

The Stages in The Bullfight.

Every single Corrida de Toros has different stages, these are divided in:

  •      Paseíllo
  •      First third
  •      Second third
  •      Last third
  •      The award of the trophies 

All the spotlights are aimed on the Matador and the Bull, but there are also other persons that help the Matador perform, called “Banderilleros” and  “Picadores” (lancers).

Banderillero (Google)



The name of the first comes from the “banderillas” that is translated as “little flags“, harpoon pointed colorful sticks that are jabbed into the bull´s back.




Picador (Google)

The second one or “picadores” are the horse riding lancers that “prepare” the bull for the matador by stabbing it slightly with lances.





Paseíllo: is the beginning of the event, when all the participants walk around the arena, and the judges of the plaza are introduced (they act as referees and the highest authority),  the sound of a trumpet marks the beginning of the “Corrida”.

plaza mexico
Plaza Mexico (Google)


 First third: El Tercio de Varas  is when the Matador starts to work with the cape, attracting the bull´s attention and sidestepping at the moment it charges while waving the cape in the air. During this stage, two “Picadores” enter the ring on horseback to stab the bulls back with spears (varas), this helps the Matador know how strong the bull is.



Second third: El Tercio de las Banderillas is when three “Banderilleros” put “banderillas” on the bulls back with the purpose of angering the bull and prepare it for the grand finale.

Muleta (Google)
Muleta (Google)

Last third: La Faena this is the most intense moment of the event. In this part the Matador is face to face with the bull and ready to kill or die.  He holds a red cloth tied to a stick in one hand, and a sword in the other.

Faena (Google)
Faena (Google)

The award of the trophies: The judges of the plaza are the ones who award the trophies to the “matadores”, their decision is made based on the matador’s performance, and the awards are, one or two bull´s ears, tail or both combined, many times, the cheering crowd influences the judges’ decision significantly.

Two Ears (Google)
Two Ears (Google)

Indulto Pardon:  Sometimes the bull exhibits an incredible amount of force and bravery that exceeds everyone’s expectations. When this happens people wave white handkerchiefs so the judges let the bull live, much like in ancient Rome when the people asked for a gladiator to live and the emperor gave the thumbs up or down.

In this case the bull is taken back to the ranch, his wounds taken care of and there, he will spend the rest of his life, that could be as much as 20 years, used as a stud.

Plaza de Toros Mérida built in 27 January 1929 and is located at Avenida Reforma entre 33-B
Plaza de Toros Mérida built in 27 January 1929 and is located at Avenida Reforma entre 33-B


As many of you probably know, car manufacturer Ferruccio Lamborghini, choose the name of famous fighting bulls for his sports cars. An example of this is the Miura line, the first supercar.

The Murcielago for example, was named after a famous bull that was said to survive 24 sword strokes in Cordoba, Spain in 1879, in this case the bull was pardoned and offered as a gift to Don Antonio Miura, father of Don Eduardo Miura.

Lamborghini Miura (Google)
Lamborghini Miura (Google)


By Otto Peon Aguilar

Student of International Business

Universidad Anahuac del Mayab