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Scenes From Pamplona's Crazy, Week-Long Running of the Bulls

Scenes From Pamplona's Crazy, Week-Long Running of the Bulls
Reuters

Here's what to expect this week in Pamplona, Spain: General debauchery and confrontations with some very angry bulls. 

The San Fermin festival, held in honor of Pamplona-born Saint Fermin (who lived in 3rd century A.D.), is known locally as "Sanfermines." It kicked off in the Middle Ages, but became popular in the modern era, particularly among English speakers, thanks to its role in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. Over 1 million people now attend each year.

Besides the famous Running of the Bulls, (where, each day, 6 bulls from the runnings are led to their deaths in traditional bullfights), there is a parade of giant-headed figures (Kilikis) that dance to traditional music and chase children; traditional Basque sports like Jai alai, stone lifting and hay bale lifting; and nightly fireworks.

Each year, hundreds are injured during the bull runnings, but fatalities are less common than one may think. The last fatality occured in 2009, the first in 15 years (record keeping began in 1910). Perhaps the most controversial event so far this year was when some participants managed to hang the Basque flag in front of Pamplona's town hall during the opening festivities, causing a 20-minute delay while authorities removed it. 

Below, via Reuters, scenes from this year's Sanfermines:

A "Kiliki" talks to a boy who tried to hide from him inside a store during the San Fermin festival's "Comparsa de gigantes y cabezudos" (Parade of the giants and the big heads) in Pamplona July 9, 2013. "Kilikis", wearing outsized masks and playfully hitting bystanders with sponges on sticks, parade daily through the city accompanied by brass bands during the nine-day-long festival made popular by U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway. (REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A woman runs in front of a toy bull during the Encierro Txiki (Little Bull Run) on the fourth day of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 9, 2013. (REUTERS/Vincent West)

Runners sprint in front of Valdefresno fighting bulls on Santo Domingo hill during the third running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 9, 2013. Two runners were treated in hospital for bruising following the run that lasted two minutes and twenty seven seconds, according to local media. (REUTERS/Eloy Alonso)

Runners sprint alongside Alcurrucen fighting bulls at the Estafeta corner during the first running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 7, 2013. Several runners suffered light injuries in a run that lasted four minutes and six seconds, according to local media. (REUTERS/Eloy Alonso)

Revellers celebrate the start of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 6, 2013. The beginning of the festival, known as the Chupinazo, was postponed for 20 minutes while authorities removed a Basque flag hanging in front of the town hall. (REUTERS/Eloy Alonso)

The statue of San Fermin is paraded through Pamplona on the saint's day July 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Vincent West)

Revellers wait at the Estafeta corner before the first running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 7, 2013. Several runners suffered light injuries in a run that lasted four minutes and six seconds, according to local media. (REUTERS/Eloy Alonso)

Revellers sleep on the street before the first running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A street vendor walks past a wall with graffiti sprayed on it on San Fermin day in Pamplona July 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Vincent West)

The Basque flag "Ikurrina" is draped in front of the town hall at the start of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona July 6, 2013. (REUTERS/Eloy Alonso)

A man jumps from a fountain at the Plaza de Navarreria as he is sprayed with water during the start of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 6, 2013. (REUTERS/Susana Vera)

Animal rights protesters stand inside cardboard coffins during a demonstration calling for the abolition of bull runs and bullfights, a day before the start of the famous running of the bulls San Fermin festival, in Pamplona July 5, 2013. Some 48 animal rights activists, representing the number of tortured or killed bulls in the San Fermin festival, protested outside Pamplona's Town Hall, according to the activists' spokesperson. (REUTERS/Susana Vera)

The Basque flag "Ikurrina" is removed from the front of the town hall at the start of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona July 6, 2013. The beginning of the festival, known as the Chupinazo, was postponed for twenty minutes while authorities removed the flag. (REUTERS/Eloy Alonso)

A man reads a sign on "La Cuesta de Santo Domingo", one of the main streets where the bull runs of San Fermin festival take place, in downtown Pamplona, northern Spain July 5, 2013. (REUTERS /Eloy Alonso)

Keywords: Spain

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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