The running of the bulls is the best known aspect of the festival and the story is simple, in the old days, when the herdsmen brought the bulls from the pastures to the fair in pamplona, they used to spend the night just outside the walled city. At dawn on the day of the bullfight, they would run with the bulls through the old town of pamplona. Accompanied by steers or oxen, men on horseback and people running with the bulls alongside, helping drive the bulls through the small narrow medieval streets of pamplona to the corrals in the bullring. Over a long period of time, nobody knows for sure, the locals started the tradition of running in-front of the bulls instead of behind or from the sidelines. Thus, what began as a kind of helping the herdsmen, took the form of entertainment until finally it became the peculiar custom which distinguishes the festival of san fermin from all others.

At 8 AM the 1st rocket indicates the opening of the gate of the enclosure and a second rocket announces that all the bulls have left the corrals and the running of the bulls have started! The running bulls shoot up the steep slope of the Santo Domingo at a ferocious speed, on their way to the square of the city hall and having passed through, they enter into the short stretch called Mercaderes street which presents the bulls with a 90 degree right angle turn into Estafeta, commonly know as the "La Curva", which is very dangerous. From this point on it is possible for some bulls to break away from the herd, increasing the danger of being hurt. Estafeta is straight, slightly uphill and over 300 meters long and walled in by the buildings on either side with few escape exits. At the top of estafeta, the section known as Telefonica, crossing in front of the old telephone exchange and begins the downhill slope leading to the bottleneck passageway and tunnel which leads into the bull ring know as Callejon. This is a very dangerous stretch protected by two rows of security fencing. Inside the passage way, alcoves are available where people can take refuge if they fall. Finally, the bull-runners and the running bulls enter the bullring fanning out into the arena. Normally they will go towards the gate of the corrals, helped by the guidance of the dobladores with their bullfighting capes. A 3rd rocket is fired once the bulls are through the gate of the pens, a fourth and final rocket announces that the encierro is over until the next day.


  • Santo Domingo. A steep hill, from the corrals to city hall. 280 metres.  The herd generally stay together and is the fastest section and often the most dangerous.
  • City hall to the corner of Mercaderes. 100 metres. Many first timers start to run here as the square is wide with lots of exit points and is the least dangerous section to run.
  • Corner Mercaderes and Estafeta and known as La Curva. A 90 degree right hand turn into estafeta.  Sometimes the bulls slip here while taken the turn on the outside of the bend.  Runners should run the curva tight on the inside to avoid the bulls.
  • Estafeta to Telefonica. A 2% incline. 300 metres of long and narrow street with very few exit points except for at Hemingway Bar and later Bar Fitero. At this stage the bulls are loosing pace and sometimes a bull drops behind known as a "suelto". This makes this section very dangerous as there is very little protection available.
  • Telefonica. Less than 100 metres with a double section of protection barriers. At the top of the narrow estafeta this section opens wide then quickly narrows again into a funnel. Tiring bulls and  a slower pace can cause the bulls to separate which is the most dangerous thing that can happen.
  • Tunnel into the bullring "Callejon". This short downhill lane is extremely dangerous as many human pile-ups happen here with almost no escape exit.
  • The Bullring. The bulls enter the ring and are guided by the Dobladores (ex bullfighters etc) to the corral for the evening bullfight.

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