From our friend in the south…
On Friday morning we took the train from Seville to Jerez and the temperature went south alongside us to a bearable 30 degrees. We exited the world of Ybarras and (encaste) Ibarra, Borbóns and (liquid) bourbon, and entered the land of horses and Domecqs. (For a story about my Zippo lighter, see Cristina Ybarra’s blog here.)
As I said in my last post, the bulls and bullfights of the Feria de Abril of Seville had been bad – the bullfighters unable to show either art with them or skill. I have written before – on this blog, in my book Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight – that large bulls, such as a first category bull-ring like Seville requires by law, have a far greater probability of being unfightable than the smaller ones found in a second category bullring like Jerez de la Frontera.
As the Royal Decree No. 145 of February 2nd, 1996, states in Article 46:
The minimum weight of animals in bullfights will be from 460kg in rings of the first category, from 435 in those of the second and 410 in those of the third.
Now, all aficionados look at the weight of bulls before they enter the ring, however, often they do not look – and in certain rings they do not publish – and the equally important age of the animal, which, of course, bears a varying and indirec relation to its weight. The toreros, ‘bullfighters’, I know and have fought with all spoke as often about age as size or horn type. A year in a bull’s life is a long time. So, although the same Royal Decree pronounces in the preceding article, 45, that –
The males that are destined to be fought in bullfights should be as a minimum four full years and in every case less than six.
– this still offers a two year range which is the difference between headlong aggression and a more judicious and challenging approach to what the bull perceives as a combat.
Of the El Pilar bulls we saw in Seville not only were four over 550kg, but four were also over five years old (three of both fours being the same bulls). In part this explained their lack nobleza, ‘nobility’, a concept which can be explicated in terms of unquestioning aggression or volatile stupidity, depending on your viewpoint. (The high casuality rate among the officer class in all conflicts leading up to and including the First World War in no way springs to mind. The full nature of the toro bravo I go into in one of the ‘pages’ listed top right of this website. For those whose main interest is how bullfighting can still exist in the modern world – the ethics – or why I refer to its as an art – the aesthetics – or a breakdown of the three act structure of a corrida – capote-picador, banderillas, muleta-sword – there are also ‘pages’ there on these topics.)
When you combine these old wise bulls who ‘speak Latin and Greek’, as the saying goes, with young unknown – or older and relatively little known – toreros the audience of Seville vote with their feet and wallets, not least because bad toros and toreros cost no less than great ones at the Maestranza box office (photo above), and you’d do better to spend your money on a cocktail at the Hotel Alfonso XIII (photo left), and read the critics in the Spanish newspapers bemoan the lack of a single true toro in the whole damned feria (photo below.)
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