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Around the Bluhmin’ Town


Judy Bluhm

What is happening in Pamplona, Spain? A whole lot of bull. Oops, I meant to say “bulls.” That’s right, now is the time that people (fools) don white trousers, white shirts, red scarves and waistbands so they can have the pleasure of running (for their lives) from a herd of bulls!  The annual event of “Running of the Bulls” ended up with quite a few gorings and a whole lot of stumbling and running. Does this sound like fun to you?

The Running of the Bulls, or encierro, as they call it in Pamplona, is a 400-year old tradition that is held every July during the San Fermin Festival. Just before the bulls are let loose, the crowds sing a benediction twice as a prayer of safety. Then the ritual begins with a rocket being sent off at 8 in the morning, to let the hundreds of runners know that the six bulls, six steers and three oxen are being let out of their pens. Narrow and winding streets that go for 903 yards are the full extent of the “run,” with the bulls clocking along at an average speed of fifteen miles per hour.

Are we having fun yet? Oh, did I mention that about three hundred folks have been injured and another fifteen killed over the years? The only “weapon” that the runner has is a rolled up morning newspaper that they are allowed to swat a bull, if he gets too close. I am thinking that this esteemed newspaper might work great rolled up as a potential weapon against all manner of “bad” people or dangerous animals. Ha! Well, I don’t think that a newspaper is enough protection for me if I were trying to fight off a raging bull. Get me a gun! (Sorry, not allowed).

The event in Pamplona is said to have two rules: you must be sober and at least eighteen years old. It seems that the first rule is often broken. Some runners claim that a little vino goes a long way as you await the sound of the rocket and the clank of the gates opening. I can completely understand. Come to think of it, would sober people really race through cobblestone streets in front of a herd of menacing bulls, with red sashes tantalizing the beasts to run faster?

My neighbor across the street has quite a few cows. I cut across his property one day and had my own little encierro experience. It was no “festival.” Those cows weigh about 1,500 pounds each and when they get into a trot, it gives new meaning to the phrase “swinging beef.” Yikes, I was running for my life while these cows were closing in on me! Luckily, I made it over a fence just in time.

Shall we plan to go Pamplona? Hmm…not if only sober people can run! Besides, there is usually a “running with the bulls” event held in Cave Creek each year. So far, no one has been gored or died, so I think the bulls might be friendlier. And it is a lot closer to home. Why fly to Spain when all the “fun” of running for your life is just a few miles away?

People who have “run” in Pamplona claim there is “no practice” required to have a “happy and safe” experience. Well, we might want to “prepare” ourselves with a little Sangria…and, of course, we are already holding a really good newspaper.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at