Spain hosts hundreds of ferias each year, but there is only one Feria del Toro de Pamplona, or “Pamplona’s Festival of the Bull” – an extravaganza of blood, sweat and tears held in Pamplona’s enormous bullring. In the days leading up to the San Fermin Festival, Spain’s largest, most noble and most dangerous bulls are transported to Pamplona where they will run the gauntlet and draw cheers in the San Fermin bullfights.
Feria del Toro Pamplona history
In 1922, the City Council of Pamplona inaugurated a new bullring to coincide with the San Fermin Festival and Running of the Bulls. Since then, the city’s Casa de Misericordia (House of Mercy) charity has been organizing the bullfights and shows, known around the world as the “Feria del Toro.” Established in 1706, the House of Mercy is a landmark institution in Pamplona, housing the elderly, disadvantaged and infirm. The residence provides food and shelter for over 550 seniors who have limited resources and are without family. The residence also provides employment and training to locals in need. The House of Mercy relies largely on donations and assistance provided from Pamplona parishes, but the Feria del Toro (Festival of the Bull) generates a sizeable income to help support its charitable aims.
Pamplona’s Festival of the Bull has a budget of nearly 4 million euros, of which 72 percent is earmarked for matadors and the rest for Spain’s most prized bulls. The House of Mercy has a special committee in charge of making contracts with different bullfighters and prestigious breeders throughout Spain, who are selected to take part in the Feria del Toro and Running of the Bulls.
The House of Mercy is also charged with managing the bulls which run in the Running of the Bulls each morning during the San Fermin Festival. For runners, (called mozos), familiarity with the bull breeds and ranches they hail from is very important. Some breeds are known to be unpredictable and more likely to lose herd formation during the 3-minute run to the bullring. Other breeds are faster or have a history of goring and injuring runners. Needless to say, knowing which breeds will take part in the Feria del Toro can help runners formulate strategies to stay safer.
The Festival of the Bull – A San Fermin Festival tradition
Many of the ranches whose bulls fight in the Feria del Toro are familiar names to Pamplona natives who hold season tickets. Jose Escolar, Fuente Ymbro, Cebada Gago, Miura and Puerto de San Lorenzo are just some of the “Ganaderias” selected year after year. These are ranches that breed the largest, strongest and most noble animals – all coveted traits in Spanish fighting bulls.
Bulls from the Navarra region were selected for the Feria del Toro Pamplona 2018 – marking the debut of Pincha ranch, which signed a contract to send their young bulls for the “novillada” fight on July 5.
Toreros of the Feria del Toro
The Feria del Toro also brings together the country’s finest bullfighters, referred to as “toreros.” Some of these brave men are just starting their careers while others are celebrated veterans. They are praised for their athleticism, agility and grace, as they dance around the swiping horns of 1,200-pound bulls.
Matador Pepin Liria, from Cehegrin, is adored by legions of fans. Following a decade of absence in Pamplona’s bull ring he returned in 2018 for another spectacular performance at the Festival of the Bull.
The Feria del Toro is attended by thousands every evening from July 5 to July 14. For more information about San Fermin bullfights or help with travel and tours, please complete our Pamplona Expert Travel Advice form.