The tradition, as it is practiced today, involves professional toreros (also called matadors) who execute various formal moves which can be interpreted and innovated according to the bullfighter's style or school. It has been alleged that toreros seek to elicit inspiration and art from their work and an emotional connection with the crowd transmitted through the bull. Such maneuvers are performed at close range, which places the bullfighter at risk of being gored or trampled. After the bull has been hooked multiple times behind the shoulder by other matadors in the arena, the bullfight usually concludes with the killing of the bull by a single sword thrust, which is called the estocada. In Portugal, the finale consists of a tradition called the pega, where men (forcados) try to grab and hold the bull by its horns when it runs at them.
Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition and a fully developed art form on par with painting, dancing and music, while animal rights advocates hold that it is a blood sport resulting in the suffering of bulls and horses.
There are many historic fighting venues in the Iberian Peninsula, France and Hispanic America. The largest venue of its kind is the Plaza México in central Mexico City, which seats 48,000 people, and the oldest is the La Maestranza in Seville, Spain, which was first used for bullfighting in 1765.
Forms of non-lethal bullfighting also appear outside the Iberian and Francophone world, including the Tamil Nadu practise of jallikattu; and the Portuguese-influenced mchezo wa ngombe is also practiced on the Tanzanian islands of Pemba and Zanzibar. Types of bullfighting which involve bulls fighting other bulls, rather than humans, are found in the Balkans, Turkey, the Persian Gulf, Bangladesh, Japan, Peru and Korea. In many parts of the Western United States, various rodeo events like calf roping and bull riding were influenced by the Spanish bullfighting.
A torero or toureiro is a bullfighter and the main performer in bullfighting, practised in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Peru, France and various other countries influenced by Spanish culture.
In Spanish, the word torero describes any of the performers who actively participate in the bullfight. The main performer is the leader of an entourage and the one who kills the bull, being addressed as maestro (master) and his formal title is matador de toros (killer of bulls), but the word "matador" by itself is not used in Spanish. The term torero encompasses all who fight the bull in the ring (picadores and rejoneadores). The other bullfighters in the entourage are called subalternos and their suits are embroidered in silver as opposed to the matador's more-theatrical gold.
An alternative word for torero is toreador in English (and in Bizet's opera Carmen), but this term (older than torero) is not used in Spain and seldom in Latin America.
Because of the decorations and elaborateness of the costume, the Spanish call the toreador's outfit as traje de luces, meaning the "suit of lights". Though undoubtedly flamboyant, matador costume structure provides great ease of movement.
Bullfighting is criticized by animal rights activists, referring to it as a cruel or barbaric blood sport, in which the bull suffers severe stress and a slow, torturous death. A number of animal rights or animal welfare activist groups undertake anti-bullfighting actions in Spain and other countries. According to a poll conducted in Atlanta, U.S.A., in 2003, 46% of the Americans polled hated or strongly disliked bull fighting. In Spanish, opposition to bullfighting is referred to as antitaurina.
Bullfighting guide The Bulletpoint Bullfight warns that bullfighting is "not for the squeamish", advising spectators to "be prepared for blood." The guide details prolonged and profuse bleeding caused by horse-mounted lancers; the charging by the bull of a blindfolded, armored horse who is "sometimes doped up, and unaware of the proximity of the bull"; the placing of barbed darts by banderilleros; followed by the matador's fatal sword thrust. The guide stresses that these procedures are a normal part of bullfighting and that death is rarely instantaneous. The guide further warns those attending bullfights to "Be prepared to witness various failed attempts at killing the animal before it lies down."
Sometimes the bull wins
A big Texan cowboy stopped at a local restaurant following a day of drinking and roaming around in Mexico. While sipping his tequila, he noticed a sizzling, scrumptious looking platter being served at the next table. Not only did it look good, but the smell was wonderful..
He asked the waiter, "What is that you just served?" The waiter replied, "Ah Senor, you have excellent taste! Those are bull's testicles from the bullfight this morning. A delicacy!"
The cowboy, undaunted, said, "What the heck, I'm on vacation, I'll have some!" The waiter replied, "I am so sorry Senor. There is only one serving per day because there is only one bullfight each morning. If you place your order now, we will be sure to save you this delicacy for tomorrow"
The cowboy placed the order and the next evening he was served the one and only special delicacy of the day. After a few bites, and inspecting the contents of his platter, he called to the waiter and said, "These are delicious, but they are much smaller than the ones I saw you serve yesterday"
The waiter shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Si, Senor ... sometimes the bull wins."