Since we were trying to switch the 7 timezones as easily as possible, we knew we needed to stay up reasonably late that night to effectively do so. Madrid's bullfights are on Sunday night so it was the perfect opportunity to force us to stay out a little later than we wanted to since we were functioning on very little sleep! We arrived at the HUGE Plaza del Toros. It's a small version of the Colosseum complete with stone benches that holds almost 24,000 people.
Going into the bullfight I knew the bull died but I didn't really know the pageantry surrounding the bullfight or the utter torture they put the bull through on the way to its death. A bullfight does not consist of one Matador fighting a bull as I previously thought but rather six complete bullfights of one Matador with six assistants including two Picadores on horseback, three assistant bullfighters called Banderilleros and a Mozo de Espada or "Sword Page."
The bullfight begins by a parade of all the Matadors with their assistants being introduced to the crowd.
Then one of the Banderilleros gets the bull running around by using a magenta and gold cape to use up some of his energy.
After tiring the bull out for a bit, two Picadores on horseback are brought out. One of the Picadores carrys a spear looking weapon. The Banderilleros lure the bull towards the Picadore with the spear who then repeatedly stabs the bull in the back of the neck. In retaliation the bull gores the horse. At one time the horses were not protected and many of them died from the goring from the bulls. Now the horses wear a type of armor that looks like a heavily woven bamboo cloth. Also from the picture you can tell that the horses are blindfolded because they are scared of the bulls and would run away if they saw them in the ring!
Then once the bull is beginning to bleed the Banderilleros run the bull around the ring some more.
The three Banderilleros then each stab the bull with two barbed sticks in the bull's shoulders. Typically these sticks will stay hanging from the bull for the remainder of the fight.
The Matador then brings out his red cape. Most people believe red is used because it angers the bull but, in fact, bulls are colorblind and the different color capes are just for show. The Matador does his signature "dance" moves getting the bull as close to him as possible and going back and forth across his body quickly to provide the best show for the patrons. If a few of the bullfights we saw on TV later in our trip, the Matador got hit by the bull and knocked down three times during his performance because the bull got a tourch too close.
Once the bull gets really tired the Matador takes his sword and with one quick motion lunges the sword into the bull going all the way in to the handle. The first Matador we saw wasn't very good and it took 6 times before the sword went in as it was supposed to. Typically the Matador does this alone but in the picture below the Banderilleros were surrounding him because he was having such a hard time finishing off the bull!
Once the sword is in, the Banderilleros antagonize the bull to get it to run around causing as much internal damage from the sword as possible. When the bull finally collapses and is almost dead, a Banderilleros takes a knife and stabs the bull in the brain to ensure he is really dead. This part is so gruesome it is not shown on tv, nor did I take a picture of it. After the bull has died, a group of three horses are brought out to drag the bull away, thus concluding the bullfight.
The bullfight was gory but it is a past time of Spain. I don't think I need to see another one but I was glad to be able to say I've been there and done that!