Is the Pamplona Bull Run Too Safe?

Is the Pamplona bull run too safe? According to some veteran participants, the traditional festivity is losing its thrills and heart-pounding moments, despite the fact that life-threatening gorings and numerous injuries still happen every year.

Precautions taken to increase bull run safety

This past July, experienced runners staged a protest just before a Thursday morning encierro. Their complaint: that recent measures and safety precautions have downgraded the excitement in this annual adrenaline-fest. And while it’s still incredibly dangerous to run with the bulls, your chances of being harmed or even killed may be slightly lower.

What has changed to improve Pamplona bull run safety? For the last 10 years, officials have applied a special adherent on the cobblestoned streets to help the bulls from slipping on the smooth surfaces. This precaution has resulted in surer footing, a faster race, and a lower likelihood of bulls being separated from the herd.

When the bulls stay together along the route, this makes running alongside them much less risky. It is the lone bull, the roque straggler, who is most threatening. These beasts have been known to turn around, run in the opposite direction, and gore whomever and whatever blocks their path.  

The protesters also opined that the bulls are staying grouped together behind the steers, castrated bovines that lead them through the twists and turns of Pamplona’s Old Quarter. This also lessens the likelihood of an exhilarating run, if the bulls are essentially herded from point A to point B so efficiently.

Bulls runs have become much faster

A New York man and bull run aficionado by the name of Reggie Gooden says that the encierros in Pamplona are now much faster than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Back then, an average bull run would take over 4 minutes to complete. Today, however, the runs are often over in less than 3 minutes, sometimes less.

“What they have done protects the bulls, and it also protects the runners, because nobody is going to get out in front of them now… It is just the evolution of bull running,” said Gooden.

This feat is called “running on the horns,” where your body is just inches in front of the animal’s horns.

Now that the bulls have more traction on the winding cobble streets, they are running faster, which makes it harder to sprint in front in a virtual dance with death. Over the years, 16 documented deaths have occurred at the Running of the Bulls.

For the vast majority of participants and spectators, the Running of the Bulls is in no danger of losing its heart-pounding appeal.