December 16, 2008
The Pamplona Casa de Misericordia (the House of Mercy), which was established in 1706, houses the elderly in and around Pamplona. It supports itself, in part, by organizing the bull fair for the annual July fiesta.
In Pamplona, the Philadelphia Peña and Taurino Club meets before the run out in the street at about 6:45 a.m. to gawk at photos of the 6 bulls for that day, and talk up our opinion of the breed, and those particular members of the breed. We have no earthly idea what we are talking about. No one does.
San Fermìn is months away; yet, the various bull breeds for 2009 for the morning run and bullfights have been announced. We do not yet know on what day each breed will run or fight.
Some breeds are bigger, some are faster, and some are nastier. Some have horns you won’t believe. Hooochy-momma. Some breeds stay close together, except when they don’t. Yeah, about that. Some familiarity with the bull breeds is very helpful in the running, but is no guarantee. For instance, from 2004, we always found the Mirua breed to lope along the course, like a gentle run up the Art Museum steps. Then, in 2008, they blew right past us. Like a rocket.
Some bulls have a traditional legend, while others are particularly appropriate for Pamplona and the running.
The following breeds will be participating in the 2009 fiesta:
MIURA – these bulls usually run on Sundays, and while the largest breed, are commonly regarded as the noblest and least likely to gore runners. Except when they do. Because of their immensity, the fights are usually messy and extended. I cannot remember seeing anyone cleanly kill a Mirua in Pamplona in a long time. Nevertheless, these are the official favorite bulls of the Philadelphia Peña and Taurino Club. We always run with them, but carefully on a crowded Sunday, and always wear a red tie to see them fight, and celebrate with a nice dinner at Rest. Europa.
JANDILLA – this breed is often dangerous, and fast. Gorings are common and non-goring injuries occur at a much higher rate with these bulls. In 2004, they gored eight (8) runners. In 2005, their run lasted over an excruciating five (5) minutes. In 2006, they were not welcomed back to the fiesta, presumably, because they had been so naughty. In 2007, a brown bull was separated from the herd, and charged runners up and down the callejón. In 2008, they shockingly stayed together. Kum Ba Yah. So, watch out in 2009. With Jandilla, we do not aim for a good run, but only safety and survival. Remember, duck and cover.
D.JOSÉ CEBADA GAGO – these bulls, which perennially appear during la fiesta, have a high rate of gorings. They are noticeably faster than other breeds. Their runs deserve extra care. Year 2008 turned out to be the safest year in decades, so we are resolved to keep our focus in 2009. This breed is terrific in the ring.
DOLORES AGUIRRE YBARRA – it seems to us that this breed is run on days that are commonly crowded, such as early in the festival or on weekends. Usually, there are less than two (2) gorings, which should almost be expected because of the crowds. If you ran with scissors, 2 people would get poked it’s so crowded. However, because they run with huge numbers of people, this breed leads in non-goring injuries (i.e. falls, collisions, swan dives, etc.). Remember, if you fall, do not get up.
In 2008, we ran with this breed on Santo Domingo. It was a wet and slippery morning. I saw a guy slip on a grate in the street as the bulls passed by and he hit his head on the curb. Thud. He was hurt, and badly, but not by the bulls. This is not the story you want to take home. Remember, you are running with the bulls, but battling the crowds.
FUENTE YMBRO – these bulls first (1st) appeared in 2005, and they run fast. In 2007, there was not a single gored runner. In 2006, there was only a single goring. In 2005, no one was gored. In 2008, no one was gored. Again, 2008 was an unusually safe year. However, the bulls ran the course in a little over 2 minutes (even separated into 2 groups), and threatened to gore runners on multiple occasions. We run with this breed further down the course, because at the beginning, you won’t even see them swing by.
EL VENTORRILLO – this breed ran for the 1st time in Pamplona in 2008. According to its ganaderìa, these bulls have been specially bred for San Fermìn and have large heads, large horns, and, oh how nice, a heavier weight. No kidding, they’re huge. Like little elephants. In 2008, they ran on a hot and humid morning. The crowd was light, but with a surge at the bull ring. When the bulls ran 3 wide, there wasn’t room for anyone.
NUÑEZ DEL CUVILLO – before 2008, these bulls had been absent from Pamplona for more than a few years. In 2008, they were slow, and fell way behind the steers. They had no interest in the runners. However, they have a famed reputation for mayhem.
PENAJARA – these bulls have not run in Pamplona since 1998, where they allegedly ran fast but performed poorly in the ring. It is always a balance for Pamplona to find bulls that don’t go on a morning rampage, but perform well in the ring.
I know. I just wrote that each breed is dangerous. Yes. But, even more careful attention must be given to Jandilla, which are devilish, and Mirura, which are Mack Trucks. The vacas released into the ring, with corked horns, can slice you open. So, suerte!
Peter N. Milligan