We have prepared the following guide to help you if your thinking of Running with the Bulls in Pamplona during the San Fermin festival. If you need any more information, please contact us.
What is the history behind Running with the Bulls?
The running of the bulls has been going on since the middle ages, and is a way of getting the bulls from a holding pen on the edge of town to the bull ring in preparation for that evenings Bull fights. They run the bulls through the streets at 8am which was traditionally a quiet time. Soon young men decided to run alongside the bulls each morning to prove their bravery, this gained in popularity with more and more people taking part each year, and the concept has snowballed since then. There are many bull runs each year all over Spain, but Pamplona is the most popular due to the San Fermin festival happening at the same time.
Can you tell me more about the Pamplona Bull Run?
The Pamplona Bull Run course is approximately 825 meters long, and is along narrow cobbled streets with some sharp corners. At 8am each morning they release a fire cracker which alerts all runners that they have released the bulls. What follows is wild and out of control! Six 1 tonne bulls and up to eight steers will run through the narrow streets alongside thousands of runners to the bull ring. The run should take around three minutes, and once the bulls are safely in their pen at the bull ring, another fire cracker will be released to signify the end of that morning’s Bull Run.
Is running with the Bulls dangerous?
Ohh yes, you better believe it is! It’s very very dangerous! Since 1925, 15 people have been killed running with the bulls in Pamplona, most recently in 2009. However, this does not tell the whole story, each year between 200 to 300 people are injured running with the bulls, and these injuries include severe goring’s by the bulls which result in loss of blood, and head and spinal damage by falling on the hard ground. There are still people in hospital recovering from last years Bull Run, so this activity should not be taken lightly! If you participate you are putting your life in danger, and of course it’s at your own risk.
Do you give us tips how to run with the bulls?
Yes, if you book a tour with Pillow Adventure Travel, we include for free a Bull Run orientation walk every day of the festival conducted by experienced bull runners. We strongly suggest you attend the walk, as we will show you the whole Bull Run course and highlight the particular advantages and disadvantages of each section. Please note, we do not guarantee your safety, we will educate you to the best of our ability, but when you run you are on your own and it’s at your own risk. Bulls are wild unpredictable animals, and nobody can tell you how they will behave on any given morning!
If you want an idea about who our tour leaders and the kind of people who conduct our Bull run orientation walks, please see an article written by our tour leader Ivan by clicking here.
Will I be able to run with the Bulls?
It you listen to us, and attend our Bull Run orientation walk, the answer is yes. There are official gates for people who want to run with the bulls, if you enter the Bull Run course any other way, you will be thrown off by the local police. There is also a strict code of conduct you must stick to, including not taking a camera into the Bull Run, not being drunk, not being a nuisance before the start of the run etc. Again we will tell you everything you need to know on our orientation walk.
I am a woman; can I run with the bulls?
The answer to this question used to be no, but each year more and more women take part. In fact according to official statistics, 6% of the runners in 2011 were female. You may get frowned at for participating in something the locals consider a test of manhood, so try extra hard to respect the history and tradition of the event and then go for it!
How many bull runs are there?
There is one Bull Run each day of the festival starting at 8am. In total there will be 8 bull runs during the San Fermin Festival period.
How many people run with the bulls, and which day is best to run?
According to official statistics, 2011 saw 20,500 people run with the bulls over the 8 bull runs. The first run held on 7 July was the busiest with 3,600 runners, and then the bull runs over weekends are the second busiest. The quietest day to run was the final day on 14 July which saw 1,600 people run. We always advise the run on the quietest possible day of your stay.
Can I just watch the Bull Run?
Yes, there are stretches of the course which have two rows of wooden fences. You can sit and watch the Bull Run from the second row of fences, but you will have to claim your spot around 6am and wait for 2 hours in the cold.
Alternatively you can watch from a balcony. Many locals will rent out a spot on their balcony to watch the run. Many even throw in a croissant and a glass of orange juice. These costs around EUR50 to EUR80 and you need to be at the balcony by 6.30am.
We think the best place to watch is from the bull ring. This costs EUR6 to enter and has large screens so you can watch the whole Bull Run in comfort. You will also see the bulls run through the bull ring into their pen. As a bonus, the organisers release baby bulls with taped up horns and many people jump into the bull ring and run around with these baby bulls. Be warned however, these baby bulls can weigh half a tonne and if they make contact with you, it’s like being hit by a car!