Bullfighting is probably the most traditional of Spanish Fiestas, although not to everyone's liking. The Spanish people consider them and art form which is intimately linked to their country’s history, art and culture. It's doubtful if the bulls think that way. Pressure groups attempt to lobby against this 'sport'. Regardless, this so called 'sport' is slowly dying in popularity, with the region of Catalonia having banned them from 2012, with Barcelona's bullring, 'La Monumental' having seen it's last fight.
A recent case where a bull got over the protective barrier and injured some spectators, has reduced attendances even more. This brings two areas in Spain - Catalonia and the Canary Islands - to ban bullfighting completely.
Bullfighting can be traced back to ancient days. They were popular spectacles in ancient Rome, but it was in the Iberian Peninsula that these contests were fully developed by the Moors from North Africa who overran Andalucia in AD 711. Bullfighting developed into a ritualistic occasion observed in connection with feast days, on which the conquering Moors, mounted on highly trained horses, confronted and killed the bulls. Bullfighting spread to the Spanish American colonies, where today, the largest bullring can still be found.
Bullfighting has been big business in Spain for many years, with the top matadors earning comparable salaries to the nation's top soccer stars and rock idols. However, there has been a fall in the number of spectators over recent years, with a few bullrings closing down.
A Spanish bullfighting arena is called the Plaza de Toros. All major Spanish cities have impressive bullrings but probably the most outstanding are those in Madrid, Seville, and the little town of Ronda in the Malaga province.
The Ronda bullring was built in 1785 and is possibly the oldest and most beautiful in Spain. Previously it had been Philip II's centre for horsemanship training (Real Maestranza de caballeria). Bulls were used for this training and when one day an aristocrat fell from his horse, a Francisco Romero came to his help by using his hat to distract the bull. The hat was replaced by a cape and modern day bullfighting was born. Romero's grandson, Pedro Romero, developed all the passes and moves which to this day are seen at a bullfight. He retired in his eighties after killing more than 5,600 bulls without ever being hurt. Thus Ronda is considered the home of bullfighting.
The bullring in Ronda houses a small bullfighting museum.