as probably everyone knows, bulls play a big part in popular perception of Pamplona — and Spain, really. despite the lunacy of the activity, the running of the bulls every July 6-14 draws massive crowds every year and is broadcast live by two national television stations. to participate in the encierro, participants dress in the traditional garb of the San Fermin festival: white shirt and pants with red waistband and neckerchief. they hold the day’s paper to distract the bull’s attention if necessary. the bulls are released from their corral at 8:00 a.m. every morning of the San Fermin festival, beginning on the 7th. the course is 908 yards long from corral to bullring, lined with wooden barricades where the width of the street allows for it, while elsewhere the buildings serve that purpose. bulls and humans run the course in about 4 minutes.
I couldn’t find information about number of participants per year, but between 200 and 300 people are injured each year, mostly with minor contusions. since 1910 (when records began), 15 people have died — most recently in 2009. most fatalities occurred in the bullring, which is only used during the 9 days of the San Fermin festival. contrary to what I recalled, bullfighting is still common throughout most of Spain, including in Pamplona during the San Fermin festival. the original structure dates from 1923 with an addition from the 1960s. if you don’t care about seeing the first one or two bulls, apparently you can get a good price from scalpers outside the bullring once fights have begun; otherwise tickets are very expensive.
while the encierro in Pamplona is by far the most famous, they occur throughout Spain and Portugal during the year, and even took place for 700 years in Stamford, England, before ending in 1837. the origins of the tradition are hazy, though likely arise from young hotshots deciding to show off their prowess by joining bulls as they ran from corral to bullring for bullfights, or from corral to some other location. the San Fermin festival itself evolved from several festivals including that of San Fermin, who is the patron saint of Pamplona and Navarra, the bullfighting festival, and other commercial festivals.