Six injured in opening Pamplona bull run

Daniel Silva
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Participants run in front of Dolores Ybarra's bulls

Participants run in front of Dolores Ybarra's bulls during the first bull run of the San Fermin Festival. An elderly man was gored and five other people hurt as daredevils fled half-tonne bulls thundering through the streets Saturday

An elderly man was gored and five other people hurt as daredevils fled half-tonne bulls thundering through the streets Saturday in the first bull run of Spain's San Fermin festival.

Runners in traditional white shorts and trousers and red neckerchiefs tripped over each other or slipped in the dash through the winding streets of the northern Spanish city of Pamplona.

A 73-year-old man from Pamplona was gored in his right leg at the start of the run but the injury was not serious, the regional government of Navarra said in a statement.

It said the other people hurt included a 26-year-old from Australia who bruised his left knee and a 21-year-old from Japan who hurt his back.

Some dared to run just at arm's length from the six huge fighting bulls and six steers, glancing nervously behind at the beasts' curved horns.

Others chased behind the pack, occasionally touching the bulls' sides, or cowered on the sidelines as the animals raced by.

"It was very scarey, very fast," said Matthew Kalespi, an Australian in his 20s. "I got very close, the horn was very close to me."

The bulls, weighing between 520 and 590 kilos (1,150 and 1,300 pounds), stampeded along an 850-metre (2,800-foot) course from a pen to the city's bull ring in just two minutes, 53 seconds, watched by millions on television.

On the final stretch a bull knocked a runner to the ground, and one of its horns got hooked in the man's red neckerchief. The animal then dragged him on his back for about 30 metres into the entrance of the bull ring.

Another bull's horn pierced the white trouser leg of a man who had fallen and tore off part of the material. The bull ran the rest of the course with the scrap of white cloth dangling from its horn.

Runners jumped up and down and did other warm-up exercises as they waited behind a line of police for a firecracker to go off indicating that the bulls have been released from their pen.

"It was really crowded at first and everyone started pushing," said Cliff Guyton, a 20-year-old American who took part in the run. "My heart was pumping really fast, it was huge adrenalin."

The San Fermin festival features round-the-clock drinking, with bars allowed to open until 6:00 am, and loudspeakers repeatedly played an announcement in Spanish, English, French and Japanese warning people not to run drunk.

"It is something you have to experience and feel. It's a new experience, something that is impossible to forget," said Aaron Bejar, a 31-year-old banker from Zaragoza who came to Pamplona with two friends to take part in a run.

Last year 20,500 people took part in the eight bull runs of the festival, which wraps up on July 14.

Nearly half of all those participants came from abroad, mostly the United States, Australia and Britain.

Every year between 200 and 300 participants in bull runs are injured, around three percent seriously. Most are hurt after falling, but some are trampled or gored by the bulls despite increased safety measures.

Three years ago a bull gored a 27-year-old Spaniard to death, piercing his neck, heart and lungs with its horns in front of hordes of tourists.

The bulls used in Saturday's run were from the Dolores Aguirre ranch in Seville, which has taken part in San Fermin each year since 2002. Bulls from the ranch have now caused a total of 19 injuries at the festival.