Day 6 of the Running of the Bulls: where did all the excitement go?

The steers led most of the way at the morning run of the world-famous San Fermín fiestas, until two bulls from the Victoriano del Río ranch finally decided that enough was enough

Watch: Day 6 of the 2018 Running of the BullsVideo: ANDER GILLENEA (AFP)
Antonio Lorca
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Day 6 of the Running of the Bulls

The excitement of the encierros does not depend on whether people get gored, yet the excitement of a spectacle based on the danger posed by the biggest and fiercest fighting bulls that the industry has to offer is somewhat diminished when the race is as fast and clean as today’s: only a few falls, a runner who got knocked down, and a horn briefly coming near the skin of a bold (or disoriented) runner. On Thursday, happily, there were only two people who required medical attention – for light bruising and concussion – according to the first medical report of the day.

On a different note, at some point organizers will have to consider getting rid of this particular herd of guiding steers that accompany the six fighting bulls every morning. They are so fast and well trained that they immediately take the lead at all the encierros, allowing the bulls to conceal themselves among them, and thus reducing interaction with the runners. Something similar is happening with the non-skid liquid that is being applied to the pavement at various sections of the route, a move that has ended all those spectacular images of bulls skidding against the boards on the Estafeta curve. The Running of the Bulls, let’s not forget, is something more than a mad dash through the streets of Pamplona.

Victoriano del Río bulls on the Mercaderes bend on Thursday.
Victoriano del Río bulls on the Mercaderes bend on Thursday.Rodrigo Jiménez (EFE)

Today, for instance, what appeared first on the Cuesta de Santo Domingo was not a bunch of fighting bulls; instead it was a group of six speedy and seasoned steers who have been training three times a week over a distance of four kilometers: to them, the 850 meters separating the bullpens from the ring are a walk in the park, and they proved it by completing the course in two minutes, 20 seconds, a record matched in 2010 and 2011, although their all-time record was set in 2016 when they covered the distance in two minutes, 13 seconds.

Once again, that large steer with a wide nape and long horns was the first to dash up the initial slope, clearly bent on getting to the bullring first. He and his fellow steers arrived together and in good spirits at the Ayuntamiento, and it was only toward the end of Mercaderes street that they were overtaken by a black bull who was apparently concerned about the damage to his ranch’s reputation for producing speedy animals.

This late sprinter made a solo appearance at the Estafeta bend, inspiring a fellow bull to show some pride and step on the gas, and both of them led the way down the stretch. It was one of the rare few times when bulls were in the lead at this year’s Sanfermines, as day after day the steers have shown themselves disinclined to give up their position of privilege.

The encierro is something more than a mad dash through the streets of Pamplona

These two bulls from the Victoriano del Río ranch began to run like consummate athletes, their eyes fixed on the horizon, ignoring the motley group of humans around them, and in this fashion they managed to cause falls and crashes among the less experienced runners of the two-footed variety.

In fact they were going so fast that they rammed face first into the Telefónica barrier, where there is a bend that the bulls were not aware of. It was also here that they crashed into a few runners, creating short-lived but serious trouble – the two injuries took place here. But the bulls quickly regained their footing and focused on their goal of reaching the bullring, not on the pesky people around them.

And that was all. It was all about speed, with no more excitement than the promise of a new record, which is after all just a cold number, when the encierros of San Fermín should be all about excitement and the heat of the moment.

English version by Susana Urra.

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