A lethal summer with the bulls


Alexander Fiske-Harrison, striped jacket, discussing the run with local runners and Larry Belcher, former Texan rodeo champion (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, striped jacket, discussing the run with local runners and Larry Belcher, former Texan rodeo champion (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

So I am out in Cuéllar again at the end of my season of bull-running and what a dark year it has been. Someone was killed just a few days before I went to Pamplona to run – I wrote about it in the preface to the 2015 edition of Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona. Despite 16,000 runners, 42 hospitalisations, and 10 gorings, no one died there at least (no one has since the year I first ran in 2009.) However, while I was running bulls in Tafalla and then down the mountain in Falces four people died on other runs in that single weekend.

Now, after running the bulls in San Sebastián de los Reyes, a suburb of Madrid, I have returned here to Cuéllar, in Old Castille, which has the most ancient bull-runs on Earth (they have a letter from a Pope banning priests from participating dated 1215 A.D.) I first came here in 2012 (which I wrote up for the Financial Times) and have been here every year since and even write a thank you letter to the town in the regional newspaper, El Norte de Castilla.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison running the bulls in Cuéllar this morning (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison running the bulls in Cuéllar this morning (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

However, for the first time that I know of, indeed the first time anyone can remember, a 66-year-old man was killed at the beginning of the first of the five annual bull-runs (ending Thursday.) I saw that same bull come up the street to me, its horn worryingly red, and I assisted along with tall the other runners and the heroic pastores, ‘herdsman’, in leading it to the plaza de toros where recortadores will dodge it and saltadores will leap over it. However, no matadores will be involved. This bull will not die today. (Like all cattle, fighting bulls or not, it will end up in the food chain one day.)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, circled, with the bull which killed a 66-year-old man this morning in Cuéllar, his blood still on its horn (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, circled, with the bull which killed a 66-year-old man this morning in Cuéllar. Note the colour of its left horn. The man with the green ‘Pastores’ t-shirt is Enrique Bayón Brandi (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

I will write more in my forthcoming article on this summer for the Telegraph, but meanwhile I must prepare myself for tomorrow’s run (not least as I am recording it for the BBC.) Obviously, my prayers are with his family, but, as for those who seek to use this as an argument against festivals involving bulls, all of us here know the risks. It is, in no small part, why we are here.

P.S. You can see the inheritors of the Minoan bull-leaping tradition in Crete 4,000 years ago at bloodless work in the plaza de toros in my photo from that night below.


Recortador in action (Photo: Alexander Fiske-Harrison)

Recortador in action (Photo: Alexander Fiske-Harrison)

Saltador in action (Photo: Alexander Fiske-Harrison)

Saltador in action (Photo: Alexander Fiske-Harrison)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison


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San Fermín Roundup


Our editor, who is on holiday, has asked me to step into the breech to do a little roundup on the years events in Pamplona to accompany Joseph S. Furey’s “excellent” article in the Daily Telegraph magazine today. (We suspect he called it excellent because the article says of him, “Alexander Fiske-Harrison… a stone-cold pragmatist with a poet’s heart.”)

The editor, left, and Dennis Clancey hero of earlier posts this year, right, speaking to Allen Carney, son of Matt, the first runner and prime subject of today's Daily Telegraph article (Photo by fellow bull-runner Craig MacPherson)

The Editor, left, and Dennis Clancey from earlier posts this year, right, speaking to Allen Carney, noted bull-runner and son of Matt Carney, the first English-speaking bull-runner and prime subject of today’s Daily Telegraph article (Photo by Craig MacPherson)

So here, courtesy of our friends at the Diario de Navarra, is the San Fermín news roundup, forgive the pun. (An encierro – the word we translate as ‘bull-run’ – actually translates as ‘enclosure’, ‘corraling’ or… roundup.)

1.4 million people attended the Fiesta that is the feria de San Fermín, an increase of almost 90,000 people on last year (although last year was cold and wet which may explain a lot.) Despite this, the number of recorded complaints to the police were down from 532 to 429.

Despite this increase, which meant that, for example, the number of spectators at the fireworks increased by 14%, the number of runners was down 2.9% to 16,629 overall, 497 less than last year.

The fullest day, Saturday, July 11th saw 2,576 people running, as compared with the fullest day last year, Sunday, July 13th, which had 2,924. According to City Hall, 54% of runners were from outside Spain, of the remainder, 14% were from Navarre, two thirds of them being from Pamplona itself.

This year saw the fastest encierro, which was by the bulls of Don Eduardo and Don Antonio Miura, who covered the 848.6 metres in 2 minutes and 2 seconds, giving them an average speed of 15.56 miles per hour. (It is worth noting that David Rudisha, the holder of the 800m world record – 1 minute 40.9 seconds – averaged 17.73mph. However, he is neither as fast at the beginning nor as slow at the end.)

This year also set another first: on the day there were the most runners in the streets, there were the least bulls in history. A cárdeno oscuro meano – basically ‘dark brown’ – 535kg, 4 year, 10 month old bull called Curioso I (Nº 34.), from the ranch of José Escolar Gil, decided that it didn’t want to run and returned to the corrals alone and had to be later transported by truck.

Despite the fact that there were only ten horns in the street, there were still the most horn wounds of any day – again showing that the people are the issue, not the bulls – with four that day out of the total ten this year, along with 42 other hospitalisations. (Newspapers like the Chicago Tribune should fire which ever staffer writes articles saying there were none.

This still makes it a remarkably clean year which owes a great deal to the courage and skill of the pastores, ‘herdsmen’, who run in their green polo shirt with their long ash canes, and also the efficacy of the police.

Editor’s [pedantic] Note [from his email]: Please remember to say the pastores’ canes are ash. People keep writing that they are willow or bamboo, which is completely wrong. The canes are made from the common ash tree, Fraxinus excelsior, for the historic reason that that is what the lances used before the canes were made from. ‘Ash’ is Old English for spear, just as ‘Fraxinus’ is in Latin, from which they Spanish word for the wood, fresno, derives.

Speaking of police, under the new system of fines, 9 were issued this year: 3 for attempting to film or photograph the encierro from within, 1 for running towards the animals, 2 for citing the bull to charge, 2 for touching the cattle and 1 for blocking the exit of other runners through the barriers.

Fines II

A guide to the system of fines in Pamplona. For a fuller explanation, see the section in Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona

This brings us on to our concluding point. It should be obvious that the current asinine habit of photographing and filming oneself doing everything from having breakfast to actually dying had to be countered by an increased vigilance by the police within the encierro: people focusing on their phone have added a third entity to their field of focus when their should be only two – Where are the bulls? Where are the other people? – and as a result, things like the below happen. I believe this young American man lost his spleen.

Photo courtesy of Diario de Navarra

Photo courtesy of Diario de Navarra / EFE

However, it is easy for policing to go too far. On the second day of Pamplona’s encierros this year, a policeman came over to Joe Distler before the bulls were released to give him a fine incurred the day before for standing on the same spot on calle Estafeta, next its corner with calle Mercaderes, as he has for the past few years. He is in sleeveless red in the photo below. As you can also see, he forms no obstruction to other runners nor distraction to the bulls, something which none other than Miguel Reta, the pastor for that section of the encierro, and a breeder of bulls himself, pointed out.

Joe Distler on his corner, July 7th, 2015 (Photo courtest of The Atlantic by Andres Kudacki - AP)http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2015/07/running-of-the-bulls-2015-the-fiesta-de-san-fermin/398009/

Joe Distler on his corner, July 7th, 2015 (Photo courtest of The Atlantic by Andres Kudacki – AP)

If you don’t know who Joe Distler is, his attachment to and commitment to the encierros of Pamplona are explained by one simple fact. He first came to Pamplona in 1967 after reading Robert Daley’s Swords Of Spain, missed 1968, and then returned to run in 1969, met Matt Carney and began running with him, and didn’t miss another encierro until 2013. There is a big thing in Pamplona about the democratic nature of the run – runners are not toreros, they do not wear gold and lead their team and have their faces on posters, there is no escalafón – leader’s board – of runners nor any remuneration. In one of our editor’s commentaries for NBC’s Esquire Network, on which the running of the bulls is televised in the United States, he spoke half-jokingly off this. (Madrid-born runner David Ubeda had earlier that day been seen adjusting – ‘doffing’ – his trademark cap while running on the horns of a bull.)

However, it is worth pointing out that Joe Distler ran on the horns of the bulls, leading the herd, for practically all of his three and a half hundred or so mornings, usually alongside his friend and mentor Matt Carney, and often with Pamplonicas like Atanasio and Miguel Ángel Eguiluz. A few photos over the years are shown below.

13 July 1973 - Pamplona, Spain - encierro at telefonos with Joe Distler (L-Madras shirt)  Matt Carney (Center, looking at bull) and Jim Hollander, right, in number 2 T-shirt, looking back at bulls.

1973 – Pamplona, Spain – Joe Distler (left, checked shirt, looking back at bull) Matt Carney (centre, white shirt, looking back at bull) and the EPA photographer Jim Hollander (right, number 2 T-shirt, looking back at bull.) (Photo: Jim Hollander personal collection)

1972 - Pamplona, Spain - Joe Distler (white panama hat, black jacket) and Matt Carney (dark sleeveless shirt) (Photo courtesy of the late, great El Bomber)

1972 – Pamplona, Spain – Joe Distler (white panama hat, black suit) and Matt Carney (dark sleeveless shirt, striped trousers) (Photo courtesy of El Bomber)

1980 - Pamplona, Spain. Running encierro at Telefonos. Joe and Antanasio - blurs from side. Photograph copyright 1980, Jim Hollander

1980 – Pamplona, Spain – Joe Dislter (centre, long sleeves) and Antanasio (Photo ©Jim Hollander)

1986 - Pamplona, Spain - Joe Distler in white jacket, Miguel Ángel Eguiluz leads the herd with moustache (Photo courtesy of Aplausos magazine)

1986 – Pamplona, Spain – Joe Distler (white jacket) and Miguel Ángel Eguiluz (moustache) (Photo courtesy of Aplausos magazine)

Joe Distler in sleeveless red,

July 14, 2005 – Pamplona, Spain – Joe Distler in sleeveless red (Photo courtesy of Life magazine)

To try to fine a runner of that experience for being a danger in the encierro is… well… one is reminded of the famous case of the then Formula One World Champion, Alain Prost, who was stopped and charged with speeding on a French motorway. Prost had been caught in his Porsche 911 Turbo driving at 230 km/h on roads with a speed limit of 130km/h. The sentencing judge, clearly both a reasonable man and a fan, summed up the trial with the following memorable words:

“I realise M’sieur Prost that at 230 kilometres per hour you are safer than every driver in France at 30, but the law insists I fine you – so I will fine you 10 francs.”

(Which was worth £1 or $1.50 at the time.)

So, despite the chaos they create crossing the border on Bastille Day weekend, perhaps Pamplona has something to learn from the French after all…

Lucy G.
Dep. Ed.

P.S. If you want to read a similar ‘Bullfighting Roundup’, go to The Last Arena here.

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A close call in Pamplona


This morning was the bloodiest so far I this year’s Feria de San Fermín. With five people gored including one American according to Navarran authorities. Our friend Dennis Clancey came close to making it six (and two) as you can see in the photo…

Careful how you run your bulls, running “on the horns” is meant as metaphor.

Lucy G.

(Dep. Ed.)

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Pamplona, bull running, bull gorings, Esquire TV and poetry from New York


The Fiesta so far has been one of moments of glory and moments of hilarity, all among old strangers and new friends. The star of the show has been the American bull-runner Dennis Clancey, formerly of 20th Special Forces Group in Iraq, and now one of the presenters of Esquire TV’s coverage of the encierro, the ‘bull-run’, as you can see in the photo below.

Dennis Clancey on Esquire TV in Pamplona

Dennis Clancey, centre, on Esquire TV in Pamplona

Dennis was running on the horns of the main herd of the bulls on July 9th down calle Mercaderes when the lone lead bull, which had shot out in front, came crashing to the ground in front of various runners standing on the side including the legendary Joe Distler. However, before anyone else could react, Dennis reached out with his hand and with a click of his fingers summoned the bull to join the rest of the herd and took them all around the curve.

Some were not so lucky, on July 7th, Mike Webster from Gainesville, Florida, photographed below running in previous years, was gored in the chest by a bull from the Jandilla ranch. However, Mike was released from hospital later that day and we’ve seen him recovering in various bars around town, dining out on his story. (Not true, Mike is one of the more dignified and humble runners.)

Mike Webster in striped top right

Mike Webster in striped orange and navy shirt

This weekend is set to be the most dangerous weekend of running, with the French Bastille Day holiday releasing thousands of new runners into the streets. Luckily a runner we haven’t seen so much of in the run this year, Alexander Fiske-Harrison, is present as ever in the press, having published ‘The survivor’s guide to running with the bulls’ in The Local, Spain’s English language newspaper (online here).

He is photographed below with John Hemingway (by Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, another of Ernest’s grandchildren) in Bar Windsor after running on July 7th this year.

Ernest Hemingway's grandson John talking with Alexander Fiske-Harrison in the Fiesta of Pamplona 2015, taken by Ernest's granddaughter Cristen Hemingway Jaynes

Ernest Hemingway’s grandson John talking with Alexander Fiske-Harrison in the Fiesta of Pamplona 2015, taken by Ernest’s granddaughter Cristen Hemingway Jaynes

We took this photo from his blog as apparently where he claims he has fled to France to avoid the French for the weekend.

We leave you below with his contribution to the magazine of the New York City Club Taurino (with thanks to Lore Monig, the club president.)

Lucy G.

(Dep. Ed.)



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Bulls Before Breakfast


Bulls Before Breakfast cover

It’s not often we recommend a book other than the e-Guide Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona, but our friend Peter Milligan’s book Bulls Before Breakfast is proving to be a cracking read – witty, well-researched and well-written. It was also nice to see the authorial staff of Fiesta getting their nods, from John Hemingway – Ernest’s grandson – who wrote the foreword, to the following description of the annual, end of feria runners’ breakfast at Casa Paco with Joe Distler, Jim Hollander and Alexander Fiske-Harrison. We enclose the screenshot from the Kindle edition. Given it’s published by St. Martin’s Press, the “mainstream and bestseller” imprint of Macmillan, and that it’s already been in the New York Post, we feel sure it will do well.

P.S.  Ari Deutsch is Milligan’s brother.

The Editor

Bulls Before Breakfast JD1

Here is Jim Hollander’s photo of that breakfast. There are, indeed, legends here, especially Julen Madina and Miguel Ángel Eguiluz, who also contributed to Fiesta.)

Casa Paco

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Editor & Co-Author of Bull-Running Guide in ¡Hola! magazine


Alexander Fiske-Harrison, who put together Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona – with a foreword from the Mayor of Pamplona, and contributions by John Hemingway, grandson of Ernest, Beatrice Welles, daughter of Orson, as well as bull-runners like Joe Distler and Julen Madina and photography by EPA veteran Jim Hollander – opens this week’s edition of ¡Hola! magazine, the Spanish parent of Hello! Read the English version of his interview on his personal blog here.

The Editor

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The Running Of The Bulls – THE MOVIE


The greatest movie on the ‘running of the bulls’ in Pamplona ever made has finally come out on DVD, available here. As you can see from the HD trailer above, it was made for the cinema, where it is screened in the city every day during the bull-running festivities of the Feria of San Fermín. It was years in production, and is the definitive film on the topic, with some of the most awe inspiring footage of encierros, ‘bull-runs’, ever shown, and interviews – in English and Spanish – with such legends of the encierro – ‘bull-run’ – as Joe Distler, Noel Chandler, Julen Madina, Miguel Ángel Eguiluz and many others. (All of whom contributed to the eBook Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls of Pamplona on which more here.)

To wet your appetites, here is a selection of photos from CBS News, listed as their favourite of this past year, 2014.

CBS header

CBS Photo 5
(What CBS doesn’t know is that leading that bull is the young Pamplona bull-runner, Aitor Aristregui Oloriz – Ed. )

CBS Photo 4

CBS Photo 3

CBS Photo 2

(What CBS doesn’t know is this marks the return to the streets of Joe Distler, following his first year off – indeed first missed encierro –  since 1967 – Ed. )

CBS Photo 1


The Editor.

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