A Spanish Bull

(public domain photo by  Fiskeharrison (talk)

This is a Spanish fighting bull—a toro bravo.
It is as different from a beef bull as a wolf is from a dog.
It is the result of years—now over two centuries—of conscientious breeding. What qualities are wanted?
Above all, the fighting bull must be aggressive. He must not hesitate to charge any animal, including a man, that invades his territory.
Notice the round neck muscle—his tossing muscle. It swells when he gets aroused. Some etymologists believe the very word BULL comes from BALL—this bulging neck.

Fighting bulls, Campo Charo, Salamanca, Spain (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license photo by Juan Pablo Zumel Arranz)

He is the aristocrat of farm animals. None is treated so well for so long. He has his own wide spaces to wander and is left mostly alone for four years. After that he becomes the hero of the bullring. There, when he gallops into the ring with his head high, challenging the whole world, the spectators break into applause. He is nature’s proudest child—fierce, beautiful. No wonder he was even worshipped in old Iberia.

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8 Responses to A Spanish Bull

  1. 100swallows says:

    Miki, I see you have a long acquaintance with Spain. Then you have seen it change incredibly, especially lately. Those are funny stories about your English neighbor and the Slovakian publisher and the Year of the Bull. I hope you will go on doing your bullfight paintings.

  2. Miki says:

    This is very true what you say with the TV, and to be good informed -about any theme- helps to calm down the emotions. I have noticed that there is today much more tolerance towards bullfight amongst the strangers… And yes, the bull is a beautiful animal, in fact I don´t get tired to paint it…
    I came to Spain the first time about 50 years ago, and then almost every year back, I could follow the evolution of Spain and Spaniards from quite close, I would say. And I would say that their attitude towards bullfight has changed. I meet today so much more Spaniards saying that they don´t like it, even hate it. But there are still a lot of Spaniards who adore it, and go the ring, above all in the traditional Spaniards towns still not invaded by the tourism. Murcia, Valencia, and even Alicante, for example, are full of Spanish, hot aficionados! I have no idea though if they follow it on the TV too.
    I was 2 years ago in a bullfight in Murcia, with my brother, and I can tell you: we were the only strangers there… and it was great!

    Concerning abolition: I have an English neighbour, and he always come to me with a wide grinning on his face when he has heard somewhere that the abolition has come one step closer… and I answer, with an ever wider grinning:
    “Oh then, I have to paint much more bullfight, so that people cam remember them, later…”
    He hates it when I do such paintings…

    And little anecdote. Some months ago a big publishing company from Slovakia contacted me, they wanted to publish a 2009 and 2010 calendar with my bullfight paintings. The calendars will be sold in 10 European countries soon, amongst them Germany. Against my own interest, I tried to convince the director that it could be a commercial bad move because of people´s attitude towards bullfight. I really couldn´t imagine many people buying that calendar! But he insisted. Then I asked him why he wanted such a calendar, asked if bullfight is popular in Eastern European countries. He just said:
    “It is the year of the Bull in the Chinese calendar!”
    Good reason indeed… or not? Let´s hope he is not wrong!

  3. 100swallows says:

    I’m sure you’re right, Miki.
    But it is a good subject for painting–exotic, full of action, danger, color. The bull is a beautiful animal. Your pretty paintings must be very striking on a livingroom wall.
    Television has probably saved the bullfight or at least given it another lease for some years. Few people were going to the rings but now many like to watch bullfights on TV and TV pays the bull farmers and the ring managers big money for broadcasting rights. Cameras have changed viewing. They show close-ups that were never possible before unless you were right in the ring. And they use playbacks and slow motion and color and focussing effects and other devices that enhance the spectacle. Spectators can now see the fight up close and also hear explanations of what is going on by retired bullfighters or other experts. So there is a better informed afición than ever before.
    The left here would like to abolish the bullfight but opposition is too great. I think most Spaniards are indifferent. They do not go to the rings or watch fights on TV but they wouldn’t support abolition.

  4. Miki says:

    I would love to read your (future) book about bullfight!
    My parents took me the first time to a bullfight as I was 3 years old, and then again and again… My all life, and above all when I was living in Germany I always had a hard time when I started speaking about bullfights… never dared to say how they fascinate me… almost never got a chance to explain my position…
    It might be the reason why have become a bullfight painter… and there is something very strange happening. I have sold a lot of bullfight paintings, most of them NOT to Spaniards. And when I have asked my clients:
    “Do you like bullfight?”
    they always answer
    “No!… but we like the colours and the movement in your paintings!”
    I will never understand how people who don´t like bullfight can hang a bullfight painting on their walls… Something is not quite honest there… I guess many people might secretly find bullfight attractive, but don´t dare to say it loud…

  5. erikatakacs says:

    Can’t wait to hear your personal experience. Hemingway sure was fascinated by bullfight, I believe I read the book and a few of his short stories on this subject. It was long time ago, I should probably refresh my memory. It should be a different experience. When I was a teenager I basically consumed books, usually one a day, concentrating on the action parts. Now is different. I like to go slowly, tasting, weighing the words, contemplating their meaning.

  6. 100swallows says:

    Erika–I could write a book on the bullfight, I have so much to say. But wait for another post or two.
    I’m like you about killing animals–now. Hemingway himself talks about this “problem” in the first chapter of his Death in the Afternoon. He admits there is cruelty and does not try to defend himself against the charge of coarseness or brutality. He says he goes to the bulllfight to watch death up close. Watching the bulls actually made me more humane. I had never paid much attention to animals as a kid. There for the first time in the ring I began to really look at and understand bulls, and later other animals. All aficionados become bull psychologists…I have to stop myself now.
    That sounds good about the bull’s being the gladiator of the animal world. Let me think about whether it is so.

  7. erikatakacs says:

    The Spanish bull is the gladiator of the animal world then. Same life, same fate. Tragic. I’m not against bull fighting, it’s a tradition, but I wouldn’t enjoy watching it. What I’m wondering about is, how did this tradition start?
    Your new blog looks interesting also!

  8. erikatakacs says:

    He’s the gladiator of the animal world then. Same life, same fate…Tragic. How did even bullfighting start? I’m neither for it, nor against it, I consider it a tradition. But I don’t enjoy anything being killed, big or small, I don’t think I could watch it.

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