September 26, 2011 / 11:30 AM / 6 years ago

Factbox: Bullfights banned in Spain's Catalonia

(Reuters) - The Catalonia region of Spain has held its last ever bullfight.

Catalonia has had an active animal rights movement with anti-bullfighting politicians trying to get the spectacle banned and last year the regional legislature banned the centuries-old tradition.

Here are some details about bullfighting:

* THE ARGUMENT:

-- The animals are stabbed multiple times before being killed in front of an audience. Thousands of bulls are killed every year.

-- With attendance at an all-time low - the number of bullfights shrank by 34 percent between 2007 and 2010 according to official figures - bullfighting is on the decline. But it still takes place in countries other than Spain. It is popular in Portugal and southern France, and also takes place in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Mexico. In some countries it is illegal to kill the bull in the ring.

* SOME HISTORY:

-- Bullfighting is very closely associated with Spain and its origins can be traced back to 711 A.D., when the first bullfight took place as part of the celebrations surrounding the crowning of King Alfonso VIII.

-- Bullfighting was originally a sport for the aristocracy and took place on horseback. King Felipe V took exception to the sport however and banned the aristocracy from taking part, believing it to be a bad example to the public.

-- After the ban, commoners accepted the sport as their own and, since they could not afford horses, developed the practice of fighting the bulls on foot, unarmed. This transformation occurred around 1724.

* THE BULLS:

-- The bulls used in the fights are of pedigreed lineage raised on special ranches (ganaderias), the most celebrated being those of Miura, from Sevilla, which have killed more famous matadors than any others.

-- Few bulls are allowed to survive the ring, and the few that do are not used a second time in the ring as their memory is remarkable. Former experience would make subsequent fights too dangerous for the matadors to execute their graceful cape work, which is the main reason fans come to the arena.

-- Six bulls and three bullfighters participate in the traditional bullfight, each matador fighting two bulls; a variation on this is the mano-a-mano bullfight, which is a duel between two matadors, each killing two or three bulls.

* THE RING:

-- There have been some 600 bullrings in Spain, from those in Madrid and Barcelona, seating about 20,000 spectators each, to those in small towns accommodating mere hundreds.

-- The size of the arena floor never varies more than a few yards, those at higher altitudes being smaller than those at sea level to help compensate for altitude fatigue.

-- The Plaza Mexico in Mexico City seats approximately 55,000 spectators and is the largest bullring in the world.

-- The 18th-century Plaza de Acho in Lima, Peru, is one of the oldest arenas; and Sevilla's Real Maestranza and Madrid's Plaza Monumental, known as Las Ventas, are the two most prestigious rings. Spain's oldest bullring from around 1785 is the Neoclassical stone arena in Ronda and is still used.

* MATADORS:

-- Professional bullfighters are called toreros. Their team, or cuadrilla, consists of picadors -- mounted assistants with pikes who lance the bull in the bullfight's first act -- and banderilleros -- assistants on foot who execute the initial cape work and place the barbed darts (banderillas) into the bull in the second act. The matador works the bull and eventually kills it in the bullfight's final act.

-- Matador Jose Tomas, who returned to the bull ring in 2008, has often been compared to the greats of bullfighting -- Joselito, Juan Belmonte, Manolete and Antonio Ordonez -- but he also has detractors who say that his performances lack the purity and clean lines of the classics.

Sources: Reuters/britannica.com/Humane Society International/spain-info.com/www.cas-international.org

(Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;)

(david.cutler@thomsonreuters.com; +44 20 7542 7968; Reuters Messaging: david.cutler.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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