Whether you agree with it or not, bullfighting plays an important part of the history and culture of Spain. Many people around the world view bullfighting as cruel and barbaric, and not at all what you would consider as entertainment.

After all, the outcome is predetermined, the actual event is cruel and the bull definitely suffers. But how did bullfighting come about and why is it so important to the Spanish?

The History

Bullfights are popular in most Latin countries but in Spain bullfighting is called Fiesta Nacional, which means the National Sport. Traveling around the country there are very few places that you could not find a bull-ring, and when one cannot be found then a short drive would rectify the problem.

Many people associate Spain with bullfighting and vice versa, this is because the origins of bullfighting date back as far as 711AD. This is when the very first bullfight took place as a spectacle for the coronation of King Alfons VIII.

Bullfighting was originally a pastime of the Spanish aristocracy and it was performed on horseback, but this all stopped when the king at the time, Felipe V banned nobles from participating in bullfighting as he thought it posed as a bad example.

This was an important turn for bullfighting as after the ban it became the passion of the common people. These early bouts saw villagers facing the bulls completely unarmed, and the main point of the sport was to taunt the bull without getting hurt.

As time went on bullfighting developed into what it is today, and the bull-rings that stand in the center of every large town and city are the hub of the community. Some of these bull-rings are almost like cathedrals to bullfighting, vast arenas that can hold thousands of spectators. And the days the bullfighting takes place the whole town has a carnival atmosphere. 

A Growing Groundswell of Opposition

Today there is much opposition to bullfighting and this is also happening in Spain; in fact in Catalunya bullfighting has been completely banned and it looks like other regions of Spain are ready to follow suit. How much of this is conscience or outside pressure is not certain but nevertheless there is a considerable groundswell of opposition towards bullfighting.

The result of the ban in Catalunya meant that there was thousands of jobs that were lost that were associated with all aspects of bullfighting. And this included people that bred and raised the animals to those that took care of them. This loss of traditional jobs in Spain has not gone down well in many quarters, but the grim facts are that over twenty thousand bulls are killed each year in this practice and over thirty million people go to watch the event.   

To the outsider bullfighting is a gruesome event, but for Spaniards it is in their DNA. It is a really important part of Spanish life that has been practiced for hundreds of years. It is easy to take a high moral stance on bullfighting  and this would probably be correct, but it can never be dismissed or erased from the culture of the people of Spain.