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The Bull Games

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In case anyone is worried...the bull does not die in this game of man versus animal; and the young man above escaped harm too.


The Bull Games of Saintes Maries de la Mer, France


Wandering around Saints Maries de la Mer, we kept seeing postcards of some guy being chased over a fence by a bull, and we figured it was just some sort of local bull fighting.  But the postcards made the game look somewhat unusual, so when an opportunity came up to attend a game at the local arena, we couldn't really pass it up (and it was free!).  We planned to "just go for the 1st half,"  but it was so much fun that Yannis and Tasha stayed for the full event.  It was actually quite interesting and entertaining - and unlike traditional bull fighting, all participants lived on.


Below is a synopsis of what we saw and understood. As with most pages in our RTW trip journals, clicking on an image below will bring up a larger version of it


ZE2G7618cas.jpg Start with 1 bull - the larger and meaner, the better. - and tie some strings around and across its horns. 

Actually, start with a lot of bulls...a fresh bull is brought in for every round and there were probably 15-20 rounds in the whole event.


Release the bull into a small, circular stadium packed with spectators.  ZE2G7622cas.jpg


ZE2G7877ca.jpg Paint the boundary fence red just to help keep the bull agitated.

Hmm...some of these folks don't seem too happy with this guy staring at them.  This could get interesting (though we're calm, we're at the top of the upper deck J).


Add some young men dressed all in white (this is just begging to be an advert for some laundry detergent, don't you think?)  There are 10-12 guys in white on the field with the bull.  2 have red lettering on their jerseys, the rest have black lettering.  We think that they are 2 teams, but we're not really sure. 




Let the game begin!

The overall objective appears to be to cut the string that is tied around the bull's horns and remove as much of it as possible.  In order to achieve this, the guys with black lettering have a little handheld gizmo that is used for cutting string (wrapped around a bull's horns!).

7645 cropped tight to gizmo.jpg  The cutting gizmo.


Though they make it look easy as we watch from our seats in the upper deck, we're sure that it's quite challenging and probably gets the adrenaline going. 

7662 cropped tight to gizmo.jpg "Whoops...I'll just come back to get that later - try not to slobber on it, ok?"


To successfully (and safely) get this close to an aggravated and unfriendly bull takes some planning, guts, and team work.  The guys with red lettering on their jersey appear to be responsible for distracting the bull and getting it moving.  (In our opinion, it was the safer task.)  Tasha also thought that maybe these guys were like the team coaches since they seemed a little older and conferred a lot with the other guys.

ZE2G7780cas.jpg "Here, little bull-ey, little bull-ey.  Good boy.  Such a nice little bull" (all in French, of course)


The guys with black letters on their jerseys start on one side of the bull and make a running pass at the bull.  They need to get close enough to make contact with the head and horns (the end that's conveniently also trying to make contact with them).  They plan their path, make a sprint towards the bull, site their desired contact point on the head (keeping in mind that the bull is constantly moving and it's head is not staying still) and take a swipe at the string around the horns.

ZE2G8006cas.jpg ZE2G7981cas.jpg

ZE2G7955cas.jpg ZE2G7945cas.jpg "Tag, no tag-backs, ok?! J"


A split second later, they turn their attention towards the objective of escape from this rather large and angry animal with pointy things on its head that they have just further aggravated.  Frankly, we don't blame them for the intensity and focus on this phase of the plan.

ZE2G7973cas.jpg ZE2G8069cas.jpg


They make a beeline towards the side of the arena, step on the white railing on the bottom of the red fence, and jump out of the bull ring with the bull screeching to a halt before hitting the fence,  Pretty straightforward - though perhaps a little insane, but we digress.

ZE2G8053 escape crop.jpg ZE2G7921ca.jpg


What puzzled us at first was why every one of these guys didn't just "hop the fence;" instead, they leapt over the fence and up on to the railings in the stands.  Occasionally, when they had removed a piece of the string from the bull, they would give it to one of the fans.  But most of the time, it was a landing spot, and perhaps a brief chance to catch their breath.

ZE2G7686ca.jpg ZE2G7994ca.jpg  "Don't mind me...this is a nice, comfortable spot.  Have any peanuts or Cracker Jack?  Oh yeah, wrong sport. J"



After a few repetitions of this routine, it suddenly became clear why they exit the arena with such zest.

ZE2G7999-vert-cas.jpg ZE2G8065cas.jpg ZE2G7866ca.jpg

These bulls don't always stop short at the fence - they regularly go over it!  And then it's fun to watch all the people that were behind the fence jump over it into the arena and hang there until they get the bull back on the "right" side.



All in all, an entertaining and informative afternoon for us.  If you ever find yourself in Saints Maries de la Mer (or the general area), you should check it out.


                                                                See you l-a-a-a-a-a-ter! ZE2G7773ca.jpg


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Last modified: 06/13/08