‘The Great Bull Run’ brings death-defying Spanish tradition to 10 US cities

Rob Dickens tried to travel to Pamplona for the annual bull run for several years, but when time and money constraints kept him away time and time again, he came up with an idea: instead of go to Spain for a bull run, why not bring a bull run to the United States. The Great Bull Run LLC was born.

Starting this month, a group of running bulls and trainers will tour the United States as a traveling rodeo, settling in 10 cities from Florida to California through July 2014 under the banner of the Great Bull Run.

The first is Richmond, Va., Where the August 24 drag race south of town has already drawn 5,000 participants and an additional 4,000 spectators. The Atlanta event on October 19, meanwhile, currently has 2,000 runners and 1,000 other spectators. COO Dickens said he receives about 250 additional registrations each day and about 20,000 people across the country have signed the necessary waivers allowing them to participate.

Unlike its week-long, alcohol-infused Spanish precursor – made famous by author Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” – Dickens said the US version will be a one-day event in each host city. Additionally, he noted that the company has put in place several measures to reduce the risk of serious injury and create a safer environment for bulls and humans.

“First, we will not use hyperaggressive fighting bulls that have been trained to seek out and hone humans on sight, nor to file bull horns with razor sharp points. Secondly, we only run on dirt or grass, and not on slippery cobblestones, in order to avoid the slips and falls that often hurt bulls in Spain. Likewise, our courses do not use tight turns that the bulls cannot navigate, which in Spain often leads to stacks of bulls and humans. Third, our courses are not surrounded by buildings, leaving runners with no way out.

Instead, the Great Bull Run will build the track using a rodeo fence that runners can easily climb over to get away from a charging bull. The company has also designed recesses in the fence that it says will allow runners to bypass incoming danger. Yet, as the website points out, “by participating in the race, you accept the risk of being trampled, gored, struck or thrown into the air by a bull, or struck, jostled, tripped or trampled by your fellow riders. race. “

Dickens said: “Any serious injury or death will definitely get people talking, but everyone understands that there are risks inherent in running with bulls. That’s what attracts people. “

He noted that some politicians or activists may attempt to use an injury to gain media coverage, “but in the end, running with the bulls is not more dangerous than skydiving, bungee jumping or motorcycles, and we have not banned these activities.

Last month in Pamplona, ​​an American student and a young Australian girl were both gored and seriously injured while running with the bulls. Video footage of a Spaniard being tossed around like a rag doll by a bull has also made headlines around the world.

Dickens, who believes running with bulls could become the next big extreme sport, says there have been 44,000 motorcycle fatalities in the United States in the past 10 years and just 15 in Pamplona in the past 103 years, although comparisons like this between a daily activity and an annual event are sure to come under scrutiny.

The treatment of animals is also likely to come under scrutiny, and the Great Bull Run LLC has made its stance on animal rights known in an attempt to sidestep the almost certain outcry from activists.

The company said the animals will be kept on an “outdoor ranch” when not participating in an event; they will not be mistreated, beaten, shocked or deprived of food; a veterinarian will be on site at all times to monitor their health and treatment; and the bulls will be acclimatized to the crowds and arena before each race to reduce any stress.

Finally, while the running of the bulls at the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona ends with a bullfight and the death of each racing animal, each Great Bull Run will end with a ‘Royal Tomato’, an event that is inspired by another Spanish festival. : La Tomatina de Buñol. As such, no bull will be killed at the end of each event. However, the company cannot offer the same guarantee for human participants.


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