The Running of the Bulls is, without doubt, the best-known part of the San Fermín festivities and the one which attracts most interest worldwide.
The origin of the running dates back to the middle ages, when the herds of bulls were led by horsemen towards the city centre. In the 16th century, several local young men and butchers defied the authorities by going out to run in front of the bulls. The current track dates from the late 18th century, and covers 848.6 metres from the corrals of Santo Domingo to the Bull Ring.
This is the main act of the festivities, and basically consists in running in front of six fierce bulls, which are transferred each morning at 8:00 by herders and steers from the corrals of Santo Domingo to the Bull Ring, along a conveniently barred-off route that runs through the streets of the historical city centre. A fierce, tense race, in which the possibility of coming to grief is ever present due not only to the obvious danger posed by the bulls, but also to numerous external factors, such as the sheer number of runners crowding the streets or the very environment in which the race takes place.
Minutes before 8am, the runners chant for San Fermín’s protection – the “capotico”, on the Santo Domingo Slope. The herd will then run along the "Plaza Consistorial", Mercaderes and Estafeta until they reach the Bull Ring, designed by Francisco Urcola in 1922.
The fence was introduced in 1776 to replace the blankets used as curtains in intersections. The current fence is made of pine wood because of its resistance to wear and rotting. It consists of 2,044 horizontal planks, 388 posts, 40 gates, 200 palisades, 2,400 wedges and some 10,000 screws, all of which are assembled along the 846-metre track.
The name of 'encierro' to define the race of bulls and young men through the streets of Pamplona was used for the first time in the year 1856, when Estafeta street became part of the track, replacing Chapitela street as the new Bull Ring located near the Gayarre Theater was inaugurated. Before that, the running ended at the Castillo Square, which was fitted as a bull ring, and it was called the ‘entrada’ (literally 'entrance’, as a way to designate the irruption of the herd on the city streets.
THE ENCIERRILLO - Transfer from the Gas corrals to the Santo Domingo pens.
The night before each Running of the Bulls the bulls set to run the next morning are driven from the “Gas” Corrals, in the Rochapea district, up to the corral on Santo Domingo. There is not fixed time for the event; it takes place at dusk and gets under way at the blow of a horn. In absolute silence (flash photography and anything which may distract the herd is forbidden) and only with the help of cowherds and oxen, the bulls run the 300 metres which separate the two corrals.
In order to ensure that the "Encierrillo" (Little Bull Run) takes place, as far as possible, in silence and to prevent further stress to the bulls, public access is restricted by means of daily passes which the City Council makes available to the public the days prior to the festival.
When: from 7th to 14th July.
Time: 8:00 a.m.
Distance: 848.6 metres.
Approximate duration: 2 minutes.
How to see the running of the bulls
For the runner: The Running of the Bulls is open to everyone aged 18 or over who wishes to take part. Obviously, anyone who decides to run must do so responsibly and following both the indications given by the police and cowherds, and a set of basic rules, the breach of which entails a fine. If you want to consult the rules, click here.
For the public: There are three ways to see the running of the bulls
From the fence (please note that the first fence is reserved for runners, medical staff, press, etc., while the second is intended for the general public). It is recommended to get there at least two hours in advance.
From a balcony: many tourism businesses in the city offer the possibility of renting balconies, some including breakfasts and guided tours.
Bull Ring: You can go directly to the Bull Ring and watch there the final stretch of the running of the bulls and see how the “mozos” and “mozas” and the bulls enter the arena. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office from 6am.
Attention! Please note that the streets which the “encierro” runs through are closed to pedestrians 90 minutes before the start of the running.