Spanish bullfighting is a ritual, with 3 different stages or tercios (can be translated as thirds). Each one starts and ends after a member of the music band blows a bugle.

A corrida or bullfight begins with the tercio de varas. Then comes the tercio de banderillas. Finally, the tercio de muerte is the time when the matador faces the bull on its own.


Tercio De Varas (The Lancing Third)

The tercio de varas starts right after the bull enters the ring. It’s the first time the bull is in a plaza and has human contact, so its first reaction is generally confusion. As the bull runs towards the tablas (wooden fence), the banderilleros members of the matador‘s team confront it with their capes, called capotes.

After a few of minutes observing the bull behave, the matador takes the lead and thrusts his capote, performing the suerte de capote (art of the cape). This strategy will allow him to notice how the bull charges, either with strength or not willing to at all. He will pay attention to head movements the bull might do while charging, and thus, will try to avoid its horns.

Finally, the matador will want to know if the bull tends to go to an area of the ring. In this case, the bull will have a carencia, a trend towards this area. A bull with a carencia will always be a dangerous one because instead of attacking the cape, the bull might run away and gore someone unexpectedly.

The art of the cape is one of the most visual acts of Spanish bullfighting, with the matador making impressive lances (passes).

Then, time for the 2 picadores to enter the plaza, riding their horses. Each of them is armed with a vara or lance.

As the bull is encouraged to attack the horse, the picadores‘ mission will be to stab the bull’s neck. Fortunately, horses are completely protected by a padding armor and blindfolded to avoid eye contact with the bull.

The matador will tell the picador how many times he has to stab the bull, but it’s generally no more than three. The reason behind this fight between the picador and the bull is to weaken its neck muscles. If the picador succeeds, the bull will lower his head and horns during the rest of the fight, becoming less dangerous.

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Want To Enjoy The Spanish Bullfighting?

Attending a bullfight is a once in a lifetime experience, especially if it’s your fist time. The passion and danger surrounding the fight between the matador and the bull cannot compare to anything else in the world.

Follow Hemingway’s steps and become an aficionado. As he wrote “Anything capable of arousing passion in its favor will surely raise as much passion against it”. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy a bullfight as he did, and get your tickets (online!) now.

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Tercio De Banderillas (The Sticks Third)

The bugle is blown once again, and as the picadores leave the ring, the banderilleros prepare themselves to face the bull. They won’t have a cape to distract the bull…

Three banderilleros will try to stick two poles with a metal point, similar to an arrow, in the bull’s shoulders. These poles are known as banderillas (literally, small flags) because they are decorated with colored papers.

The banderilleros‘ attacks will further weaken the bull’s strength making him losing power. If it’s a real toro bravo (or fighting bull, a different species than regular cattle) it will charge with more vigor and rage.

Eventually, if the matador is particularly skilled, he might place the banderillas. But it doesn’t happen often.

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A corrida concludes with the tercio de muerte, the most dangerous and stressful stage for the matador. He will try to impress the audience and the president, showing his courage and art as a torero.

Additionally, you can have a look at Seville’s Feria de Abril official Spanish bullfighting schedule if you plan to be there at that time.