Running With Bulls FAQs

There’s so much to know about Pamplona’s San Fermin festival and its famous bull run, so we compiled this little list of bull running frequently asked questions. If you have more questions for us email info@stoketravel.com, or ask any of our expert running with the bulls guides at our Pamplona bulls camp.

Why do they run with bulls?

The reasons are as different as there are runners. For many locals it’s a tradition that runs in the family, for some foreigners it’s seen as an incomparable adrenaline rush. The run takes place during the festival of San Fermin, Pamplona’s patron saint and first ever bishop, who we don’t think ever ran with any bulls, but he did lose his head. More on that later.

How did the running of the bulls originate?

Running with bulls was a practical way of transport the animals from outside of town to the bull ring in the city’s centre. People would run in front of the bulls so the animals would follow them and not lose their way. At some point in history people joined the run, mostly young men trying to prove their bravery, then the tourists came, mostly inspired by Ernest Hemmingway’s depiction of the bull run in his novel Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises.

How many people have died running with the bulls?

Too many! But not as many as you’d think. Since they began keeping records in 1910 15 people have died, which isn’t that many when you consider the thousands who take part every year. The most recent death was in 2009 when a young runner from Madrid was gored in the neck. While Pamplona’s bull run is the most famous, similar events are held all over Spain each year, and it’s not uncommon for runners to die in other locations.

What does it mean to be gored to death?

Goring is when a bull’s horn or horns pierces your skin. It is the most common form of bull running injury. Every year numerous runners are gored, but the vast majority don’t die from their injuries.

How long does it take to run with the bulls?

The average time is around four minutes, but bull runs have been known to last up to half an hour! When a bull becomes separated from the pack it can stop running towards the bullring and start charging runners. At this point the bull run monitors will coax the bull with large sticks to try and encourage it to run to its destination.

How fast does a bull run?

The bulls run at around 24km/h, or 15mph. Usain Bolt runs at almost 45km/h (28mph) over 100m. The bull run is 848.6m long, and not straight, smooth or free from obstacles. You shouldn’t go into the bull run expecting to run faster than the bulls for any great period of time. Just run in front of them for a while and then get out of the way. The most important thing is getting out of the way of the bulls, as opposed to running with them.

How fast is a cow?

We don’t know, but probably not as fast as a bull, but not much slower either! Cows would have a running pace similar to bulls so they can have a chance of escaping from them, if they need/want to.

How many bulls are used in the running of the bulls?

The usual configuration is six fighting bulls, eight oxen steers, identified by the bells around their necks, that are employed to keep the bulls in a group and a further running behind that an additional three steers to encourage any bulls that have broken from the pack to continue their run to the bull ring. This is repeated every day for the eight running days of Sanfermines.

How much does a bull weigh?

The bulls weigh between 500-600 kilograms, or more than 1300 pounds. Their horns are sharpened. They don’t like the look of you.

Are bulls colour blind?

They aren’t colourblind in general, but are colourblind to red. So don’t hesitate in throwing on the traditional red sash and neckerchief. When bulls charge a red rag their attracted to the movement, so maybe try and stay still if you don’t want to attract their attention (note: standing still in a bull run is not a great idea).

You will have to wear the official running of the bulls outfit.

White shirt, white pants, red neckerchief (or panuelo) and red sash. The whites pay homage to the butchers who were the first to lead the bulls running through the streets, the red neckerchief symbolises San Fermin who was beheaded by the French (and supposedly walked his head back to Pamplona). Butchers and headless bishops make for a pretty gruesome costume, but it does look pretty cool.

Stoke Travel has all your bull run answers and more at our Pamplona Running of the Bulls campsite, featuring the Stoked in the Park music festival. We’ve got the best location and more inclusions than anybody else, so make running with the bulls your only bad decision this July and stay with Stoke. 




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