Running of the Bulls

by Hayley Hornak
New Britain, CT, United States

What do a third-century saint, giant puppets and stampeding bulls have in common? They are all part of the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain. It was originally only a two-day event but now runs for one week every year starting on July 6th.

It’s All About the Race

The tradition of the running of the bulls began during the early 14th century. Known as El encierro in Spanish, it involves six bulls and hundreds of people. A rocket goes off at 8 AM to signal the release of the animals, who then charge forward through four narrow streets of Pamplona’s old quarter. Anyone who is at least 18 years old and healthy can try to run alongside the bulls. Tall wooden fences guide the herd and provide a bailout for the runners.

The distance of the course is about 875 meters, and the race typically lasts two to four minutes. Most runners are surprised by how fast the bulls are. Despite weighing 1200 pounds or more, at average speeds of 15 mph, they can easily overtake their human competitors.

It was through the novel by American writer Ernest Hemingway that San Fermín’s fiesta developed its popularity. The publication of The Sun Also Rises in 1926 drew international attention to this unique event that now draws one million tourists. They come from all over the world but are identifiable by the unofficial uniform of the San Fermín reveler — white shirt and pants with red scarf and sash. This color combination honors both the martyrdom (red) of the festival’s patron saint (white) as well as the historic butchers who first escorted bulls through town.


Red and white clothing predominates as the audience awaits a parade in Pamplona

Other Availa-bull Events

Where do the giant puppets come in? After the bulls have completed their part in the festivities, a parade starts. Performers carry eight 13-foot-tall wooden puppets called gigantes in Spanish. Made of wood and papier-maché, the puppets were created in 1860 to represent royalty from different regions of the globe. The procession is accompanied by music, dancing and other costumed figures.


Gigante puppets parade through Pamplona during the San Fermín Festival

Stampeding bulls and parading puppets aren’t the only ways that festival-goers celebrate Saint Fermín. Making a large noise figures into the middle of the week during El struendo. People gather together one minute before midnight with musical instruments, whistles and drums to make as loud a collective noise as possible. Also, spectacular fireworks illuminate the sky every night of the week. During each day, competitions take place in traditional sports like stone lifting and wood cutting.


Fireworks light up the night sky over Pamplona

This week of raucous fun ends with a solemn event called the Pobre de mi. Removing their red scarves and raising candles above their heads, the crowd sings,

Poor me, poor me, for the festival of San Fermín has ended.

Then everyone goes home to spend the next 358 days resting up for next year.

Have a change to suggest for this story? We’d love for you to submit it!


Math Questions

For Grade 6

Students will find a percent of a quantity as a rate per 100. For example, 30% of a quantity means 30/100 times the quantity.

Students will solve problems involving:

  • finding the whole, given a part and the percent
  • finding a part, given the whole and a percent
  • finding the percent, given the whole and a part

Percent, Part and Whole: How Do We Find Them?

  • If given a percent and a whole, how do we find the part?
  • If given a whole and part, how do we find the percent?
  • If given a part and percent, how do we find the whole?

In 2014, a total of 17,126 people took part in the Running of the Bulls.

  1. If 9,590 of these participants were not from Spain, what percentage of the people involved in the 2014 event were not from Spain?
  2. On the 9th of July this figure reached 70%. How many people not from Spain are participating now?
  3. 11,477 of the runners took part for the first time in their lives. What percent of people in 2014 were taking part for the first time?
  4. If 12 people were injured in the event that year, what percent of people were injured?
  5. Of the 56% not from Spain, 24% were North American. How many people from North America participated in the 2014 Running of the Bulls?
  6. Fill in the missing part or percent…

Write your own math question and submit it here

Extension Questions

Each Running of the Bulls ends with the animals herded into a bullfighting arena. Bullfighting is seen as an historic art form by its supporters and inhumane cruelty by its critics. Which side of the issue do you agree with? Why?

Write your own extension question and submit it here













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