There’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity. And nothing blurs that frail boundary more than when men explore bull-themed recreational madness. Whether you’re a sportsman, gourmand or thrill-seeker, grab it by the horns!
If you like your near-death experience with a side of culture, head to the Spanish town of Pamplona. In July each year, this historic town, the ancient capital of the Kingdom Of Navarre, comes alive with encierro (the running of the bulls). Perhaps it’s the steady diet of sunshine and sangria that blinds the senses of locals and tourists alike who abandon logic and reason to tango with the toros.
Once a practical means of transporting bulls from their overnight corral to the bullring or market, today encierro is a rite of passage. Women were prohibido until 1974, but now they, too, can experience the exhilaration of being chased by a 900kg horned bovine. Fifteen people have died during the running of the bulls since records began back in 1910. Hundreds more are injured each year from “goring” – an occupational hazard when chased by anything with a three-foot penis.
If you prefer topping to trampling, head to the rodeo for some bull riding or, according to National Geographic, “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.” It’s hard to imagine anything more terrifying than being strapped to the back of an angry bull, but all over Australia and the Americas, from Adelaide to Alice, Alberta to the Andes, cowboys hotdiggity-damn dig it. Check out the chaps-wearing, beef jerky chewin’ stockmen at pbr. com and prorodeo.com.au.
Bullfighting is not a manly pursuit, but the struggle to end it is. According to PETA, bulls “may be weakened by beatings, have their horns shaved to keep them off balance, or have petroleum jelly rubbed into their eyes to impair their vision.”
Defenders of this “sport” say there is nothing cruel about pitting man against beast… when that beast is on the pointy side and weighs almost a ton. It’s true that matadors are often injured; Google Juan+José+Padilla+gored if you’re strong-stomached. Occasionally they’re killed, but it’s doubtful whether this affords the bull any consolation as it slowly expires from exhaustion and blood loss after being repeatedly stabbed with banderillas (brightly colored sticks with harpoon points on their ends) and having its spinal cord severed with a dagger before being dragged from the arena… often still alive.
This protracted slaughter is all done in the name of entertainment. A matador’s success and popularity correlates to the flair of their performance during the butchery. With the earning potential of half-a-million dollars per performance, it’s important the crowd is satisfied.* *I have not been to a bullfight but, like dog poo, I know instinctively (without the need to sample) that it is shit I will not like.
In 2010, the Red Bull Air Race World Series was placed on hold pending an investigation into safety. During trials that year, Brazilian pilot Adilson Kindlemann flew so low his wing clipped the water, crashing his plane into the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia. He survived but the air race did not.
The racing community was disappointed, but not surprised. Flying at nearly 400kmph, less than 20 metres off the ground pulling up to 10 G’s in some manoeuvers – safety was always going to be an issue. However, following a three-year hiatus and some tweaking to the rules governing speed, height and stunts, the red bull boys once again took to the air in their magnificent flying machines in Abu Dhabi this year. Go to redbullairrace.com
Nothing brings out the inner warrior in a man like ancient hunting turned modern sport. And while archery’s origins may be huntergatherer, today it is a much more refined pastime with all manner of compound bows, stabilisers and counterweights. It has even found its way into the Summer Olympics. Archery in the 21st Century comes in many shades, from Katniss to Hawkeye, but the aim is always the same – bullseye.
Brazilian professional bull rider Guilherme “Hollywood” Marchi prepares to dismount.
JR wears COLT Collection jock strap.
We much prefer snatching ribbons in the bulls don’t die. [See our feature, Cock And Bulls, DNA #144]
Red Bull Air Race: fatality-free… so far.