PAMPLONA, Spain (AP) — Thousands of thrill seekers took part Friday in the first running of the bulls at the San Fermín festival in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona.
Several runners took knocks and hard falls in the 8 a.m. event but no one was gored by the beasts, a frequent feature of the spectacle.
The festival attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. Nearly 1.7 million people visited Pamplona for the celebrations in 2022, and forecasts are higher for this year with all COVID-19 constraints ended.
In the run, six bulls guided by six tame oxen charged along a route through Pamplona’s streets for around two minutes and 30 seconds before reaching the bull ring.
The festival was made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises.” This year marks the 100th anniversary of Hemingway’s first visit to the festival.
Friday’s run was the first of eight scheduled. The rest of day usually includes massive sessions of drinking, eating and attending cultural events.
Four runners were gored in the festival last year. Sixteen people have died in bull runs since 1910, most recently in 2009.
The bulls that run each morning are killed in the afternoon by professional bullfighters.
Animal rights activists annually campaign against the festival, claiming it is cruel to animals.
Destino Navarra, an official tour guide group, said visitors from the United States and Canada represent 70% of its total bookings for this year’s festival.
Expert bull runners, mostly locals, try to sprint at full steam just in front of the bull horns before peeling off at the last second. The inexperienced, a group that includes most foreigners, do well enough to scramble out of the way, often ending up in piles of fellow runners.
Almost everyone in Pamplona wears the traditional white shirt and pants with red sash and neckerchief during the colorful festival.
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