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Aug 6, 2013
When a bull gets to snorting and stomping and swinging its horns wildly about, looking for something to impale, most people try to make sure there’s a good strong fence between themselves and the beast. Except for rodeo clowns, of course, but they are a wee bit crazy so I’m not sure they count.
Then there are the thrill seekers who journey to Pamplona, Spain, every July for the Running of the Bulls. Each morning during the weeklong festival honoring St. Fermin a half-dozen bulls are released into the streets, which have been blocked off to make a path to the city’s bullfighting arena. Whoever wants to prove their machismo, or machisma, is invited to get in the stampeding animals’ way.
Between 200 and 300 people are injured every year, mostly scrapes and bruises, out of around 20,000 participants. Many of the injuries occur at the arena’s entrance, where the runners are funneled together and can get trampled by either man or beast. A half-dozen are gored every year, which has resulted in 15 fatalities since 1910, the last one four years ago.
“Last month in Spain, a University of Utah college student and an Australian woman were gored by bulls,” wrote Jeremy Olson in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune last Sunday. “During one run, participants and spectators screamed as a bull tossed a Spaniard to the ground and attacked him, with fellow runners trying to pull the animal away by its tail. The man was eventually dragged to safety.”
Rob Dickens thought this sounded like such wonderful fun he formed a company called Great Bull Run, which will stage ten such events around the country. The first one will be held August 24, at a drag-racing strip south of Richmond, Virginia. About 5,000 people have signed up so far.
A running of the bulls is tentatively scheduled for May 14, 2014, at Canterbury Park, the horse racing track in Shakopee, Minnesota. Organizers plan to line a quarter-mile section of the track with protective nooks and fences that can be climbed in case a runner decides, for some unfathomable reason, that sharing an enclosure with an angry bull isn’t such a great idea after all.
Dickens has promised he’ll not be using the hyper-aggressive Spanish fighting bulls bred and trained to be the main attraction at bullfights, which would seem to defeat the whole purpose. Won’t that be like going to an amusement park where all the scary rides have been shut down?
That’s not all. Canterbury Park spokesman Jeff Maday said that he and other track officials will attend the first event in Virginia first to see if it is a “good and safe attraction.” How does one make running from bulls “safe” anyway? Put rubber tips on their horns? Make them wear soft, cushy bedroom slippers to make getting trampled a more pleasurable experience?
I say South Dakota should get on this bandwagon, but we need to unwimpify the experience. Pick the nastiest bulls we can find, for starters, then feed them alfalfa laced with jalapeno peppers and gunpowder. Grease down all the fences to make escape harder. Dig a few tiger traps along the course to make it more interesting. Put hydraulic doors in some of the nooks to shove runners seeking shelter back into the bulls’ path.
Take that, Minnesota!