I MET a girl once who had been trampled by a bull at Pamplona’s San Fermin festival. As she proudly showed me the nasty grazes from the beast’s hooves, I thought: it’s just not for me. The idea of running in front of a one-tonne, panicky bull just doesn’t appeal.
So it was with much relief that I found myself high above the makeshift arena in Bayonne, watching the daily highlight of the annual fete. In the sand-covered car park below, the crowd of young men steadily grew. This was the Basque region of France and the whole town was decked out in Pamplona-esque white outfits, with red sashes around their necks and waists. The oversized red beret and half-drunk bottle of red was a nice French touch as a fearless bloke prepared to take on some angry beast. He and the brave youths of the region linked arms to form a human corridor into which the beast was released.
As this is the gentler, French side of the region, the opponent was a small cow – albeit one with long, sharp horns. A crowd formed around her and she waited for a moment, assessing the situation, then put her head down and charged, scattering the men like seagulls. The crowd cheered wildly when one of the participants managed to cling onto the cow’s back for a few seconds, then sucked in with collective sympathy as another was trapped beneath her digging horns. For the most part, the animal charged and the men ran; not so much the running of the bulls as the chasing of the cow.
All Hail the Lord of the Ring, The Sun-Herald, April 1, 2007