Pamplona – The bulls from the Torrestrella estate were the featured attraction Thursday in the first running of the bulls at the San Fermin festival in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona, where a few people fell but no one was gored.
Runners joined the fray at different points in the route, eager to take part in the adrenaline-fueled event, which was broadcast live on television.
The bulls completed the 850-meter (approximately half-mile) run from the Santo Domingo stockyard to the bullring in less than two minutes.
One bull turned during the run, putting a fright into nearby runners.
The nine-day festival got under way on Wednesday with the traditional firing of a rocket in front of Pamplona city hall amid the shouts of thousands of people, many of them visitors from around the world.
The herd took off from the Santo Domingo stockyard massed together, but a black bull quickly took the lead.
Some runners fell without coming into contact with the bulls, which crossed the plaza in front of city hall and headed for the bullring.
The runs in Pamplona are filled with tension and emotion, and occasionally result in tragedy, with 15 runners having been killed since statistics began to be kept in the early 20th century and many others having suffered gorings and other injuries.
The run to the bull ring is especially dangerous because some people take part in the event after all-night drinking binges, which makes them reckless and more likely to get too close to animals that weigh in excess of 500 kilos (1,100 pounds).
The running of the bulls is monitored by experts who control the route and try to prevent accidents, but, inevitably, runners fall, suffer cuts and bruises, and are even gored by the animals.
As many as 1 million visitors from around the world descend on Pamplona during the festival - many of them Americans but also Frenchmen, Britons, Italians, Germans and Latin Americans.
The festival, begun about 400 years ago, was popularized by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises."
A total of 2.7 million euros ($3.8 million) was budgeted this year for the festival, whose program includes 342 music shows, 137 family-related activities and 33 events involving bulls.