An embarrassment of an injury

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Fighting bulls from the ranch of Luis Terron are herded by hundred of horse riders down a slope leading to the town of Cuellar, in the second 'encierro' or running-with-the-bulls in this town's fiesta. Horsemen and women herd the bulls through forests and open fields into the town where runners then test their bravery in a stampede to the bullring on the town's paved streets. The 'encierro' in Cuellar is the oldest in Spain. (Photo: Jim Hollander / EPA)

Fighting bulls from the ranch of Luis Terron are herded by hundreds of horse riders down a slope leading to the town of Cuellar, in the second ‘encierro’ or running-with-the-bulls in this town’s fiesta. Horsemen and women herd the bulls through forests and open fields into the town where runners then test their bravery in a stampede to the bullring on the town’s paved streets. The ‘encierro’ in Cuellar is the oldest in Spain. (Photo: Jim Hollander / EPA)

So the encierros of Cuéllar in Castille and Leon have continued with their usual ancient spirit of wildness although I have had to stop running with the bulls. On Monday afternoon there was an encierro chico, a bull-run for children involving vaquillas, horned two-year old females of the Spanish fighting bull breed. This is the way the next generation of runners and recortadores (see previous post) are trained. However, one of these wily young beasts managed to find a breach in the fences which lines the route that, although too small for a bull to pass through, was just the right size for the vaquilla. So, with a wriggle and a push, she got through the fence and into the bar terrace I was sitting on with some fellow ‘Anglo-Saxon’ runners (technically better described as Celts, being Scottish and Welsh, but that’s not how the Spanish see us.)

After the initial moment of reaction – everyone leaping over walls, chairs and tables upturned – we all seem to have simultaneously realised that this was the very thing all our years of running with bulls had trained us for. So, as the vaca sped down the hill, we pursued it at a flat sprint as women and children darted to either side of the fleeing beast. However, myself and another runner had a collision, I went down with an agonising crunch on the tarmac, and came up with a couple of cracked ribs. I hear the animal made it to the next town where it gored someone twice before it was captured once again.

However, the most frustrating thing of all is that I had planned to ride a horse in the 5km ‘encierro del campo’ spectacular which precedes the bull-run in the streets of the town. (Photographed top.) I had cheekily used my annual thank you letter to the town in the regional newspaper, El Norte de Castilla (online here, in English here) to request a horse to ride in it, and my friend, the great cuellarano sculptor, Dyango Velasco managed to arrange it. However, that is now impossible. Oh well, maybe next year. The irony and the sheer bathos of being gored by a female calf at a bull-run is not lost on me.

The matador Manuel Escribano and Alexander Fiske-Harrison (on heavy meds for his broken ribs) at dinner last night (Photo: Lore Monnig)

The matador Manuel Escribano and Alexander Fiske-Harrison (on heavy meds for his broken ribs) at dinner last night (Photo: Lore Monnig)

Now I must head to the bullfight of Manuel Escribano, who is replacing the badly gored matador Saúl Jiménez Fortes in the plaza de toros this evening (alongside Javier Herrero, a local matador whom I saw last year and mentioned in the above article.) I met Manuel at dinner last night and so have promised to right this corrida up for my bullfighting blog, The Last Arena.  I wish him suerte, ‘luck’. He will need it.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison
@fiskeharrison

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About fiskeharrison

English author and journalist, broadcaster and conservationist. Author of Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight, shortlisted for Sports Book Of The Year 2011. Editor & Co-Author of Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona. Author of 'The Unbroken', finalist for Le Prix Hemingway 2016
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