A bullfight is divided into three "tercios," or thirds, with two bullfights lasting roughly 20 minutes each. The interval between the second and third bullfight is also about 20 minutes.
There is no set number of rounds in a bullfight. It all depends on how much blood is allowed to be spilled and whether the bull dies before the end of the fight. If the bull survives the entire battle, that's five rounds. If he falls at any point during the fight, that's four rounds. Etc.
The official record holder for most consecutive bullfighting rounds is Miquel Barcelo, who from 1931 to 1935 fought 507 bulls. His final bull lasted only 15 seconds because it was already injured when it entered the ring. Barcelo died in a car crash while still fighting another bull. He was 46 years old.
Another famous fighter who spent more than 10 years as Spain's top bullfighter was Manolete. He fought from 1926 to 1955 and held the title of "the king of the ring" during some of his years on stage. His career total was 1,133 fights without a loss. There have been other great bullfighters since then, but none who can compare to them in terms of fame and popularity.
Each duel is divided into three stages and lasts around 20 minutes. The entire event, which consists of six bullfights, lasts around two hours. The first and second stages take place in the afternoon while the third and final stage takes place in the evening.
In the first stage, called "el pase," the matador tries to provoke the bull into charging him by waving his cape in the air. If the bull charges, the matador drops to one knee and gives him the "hasta la vista," or "the last look." This is when the matador will either kill the bull with a sword thrust to the heart or let it go at that time. If he decides not to kill the bull, then he goes on to the next step.
In the second stage, called "la corrida," the matador attempts to distract the bull with his cloak so that other fighters can come to his aid if necessary. They use their swords to try and give the animal enough pain but not enough to actually kill it. If someone cannot reach the matador in time, then he too has to leave the arena until the next day.
The third and final stage begins when the horn blows three times.
A bullfight consists of six distinct and needed phases: the opening capework, the lancing by the picadors, the showy and graceful passes with the enormous cape, the placement of the banderillas, the risky passes with the muleta, and ultimately the kill. The fight usually lasts about an hour and a half.
The opening capework starts off the fight on a dramatic note. The matador enters the arena with his cape fluttering in the wind, preparing for battle. The other members of the corrida crew arrive next to give their instruments a good cleaning and check that everything is in order. Then the maestro calls for silence while the crowd watches silently from their seats. When he is sure that everyone is watching him intently, the matador will raise his sword high above his head in a formal gesture called "the salute." This is the signal to begin the battle.
The matador will try to get close to the bull without being gored, so he can deliver the fatal blow with his sword. If the matador is successful, the bull will fall over dead after several minutes or hours depending on how old it was. If the bull survives the attack, more capes would be thrown in to engage the beast in combat until it dies too.
Bullfights are popular throughout Spain and many other countries too.
When do the bullfights start? The hours of sunlight govern the commencement of a bullfight, which is certified by the bullring management a few weeks before each battle. They usually begin between 17:00 and 19:00. If you're not sure, double-check your bullfight tickets!
In Spain, they like to make them as exciting as possible, which means that sometimes the bulls will attack the matador! But there's a rule in place called "la corrida," which means "the race" in English. If the bull manages to get the matador down, he won't be able to get up until the end of the contest. That's when other members of the crew come in to help if necessary.
After the fight, the matador will receive his reward from the jury president or mayor of the town where the fight took place. This can include money, praise, or even wine!
Then the arena staff will clean up the blood and spit from inside the ring, while others wash the bulls outside the venue before sending them off for their next fight.
Bullfighting is popular throughout Europe and Latin America. In Mexico alone, it is said that more than 7 million people have seen a bullfight at some point in their lives. That's more people than live in all of Canada or Australia!