Historical Significance of Bullfighting

Bullfighting was first introduced during the second half of the War of Reconquista by men who carried the responsibility of maintaining social order in the Iberian peninsula, among the three distinct religions present there, Christians, Jews and Moors. The introduction of bullfighting into the Spanish culture had extremely positive effects, including:

  • All three distinct religions were included into this realm of bullfighting providing merit for future communal negotiations and peace
  • Through the violent ritual of bullfighting, harmony was sustained throughout the three kingdoms

The Iberians, who were the first inhabitants of Spain, idolized the bull and it was an extremely important figure in their mythology. The bull itself was seen as a mythological god in the Iberian culture, with the bullfight being the religious drama where a God, the bull, is adorned and sacrificed for humanities salvation.

The first bullfight was held in Spain in 1107 in Avila. When bullfights first became popular in Spanish culture, only knights or members of the upper strata were allowed to partake in the fight. At this time, bullfights were still very infrequent and tended to occur around the same time as religious holidays.

  • Over half the bulls immolated in the corridas of Spain were sacrificed in honor of the Virgin Mary
  • The fights often took place in the afternoon, after the conclusion of mass, to ensure the entire community could be included in the event
  • It was often customary, for the matador to ask the president for permission to kill the bull, who must give his consent and toast to the bull’s death

The actual origin of the bull has been disputed by many, as today there is such a long lineage of bulls that its difficult to trace back to the beginning. Some argue that the Lidia breed (the ‘fighting bull’), has been around since the three religious colonies (the Jews, Christians and Muslims) lived in the Iberian Peninsula. As the popularity of bullfighting began to grow, so did the level of breeding specializations which took place:

  • Cross-breeding certain breeds of bulls to typecast a certain kind of bull who was large, strong and aggressive; a prime fighting bull
  • The most feral, aggressive animals selected for public fiestas and bullfights

The Lidia bull being raised on a farm

Lidia bull in the bullfighting ring


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