Pamplona bull-run kicks off, four injured

Thousands of runners fled half-tonne bulls thundering through Pamplona's streets Thursday in the first bull-run of Spain's San Fermin fiesta, which resulted in four injuries.

Six huge fighting bulls and six steers charged through the narrow, winding streets of the northern Spanish town, clearing a path through a sea of runners mostly dressed in white, with red handkerchiefs.

Some dared to run just an arm's length before the bulls, glancing nervously behind at the running beasts' dangerous curved horns, on the first run of the alcohol-laced festival, which runs to July 14.

Others chased behind the pack, occasionally touching the bulls' sides on the inaugural run, watched by millions on television.

Many cowered on the sidelines or peered down from balconies.

Bulls and at least 2,000 runners stampeded through an 848.6-metre course from a holding pen to the city's bull ring in two minutes, 30 seconds, a spokesman for the festival organisers said.

The run was "fast and clean", the spokesman said.

Four runners - three Spaniards and a Panamanian - suffered light injuries and were taken to hospital, he said.

"I've never actually felt something like that ever before in my life," said 28-year-old Briton Jonathan Fieldhouse, his hands still shaking after the chase.

"One brushed past me, then all the rest came past."

His 20-year-old brother Ben, a barman in the English city of Hull, vowed to return for next year's run.

"The adrenaline pumps into you. It's unreal," he said.

The two brothers said they had not overindulged in alcohol, a factor that is closely policed in Pamplona to minimise serious injuries among tourists who down copious amounts of sangria, cheap wine and beer.

"It is a very dangerous activity, you have to have a cool head," said 48-year-old Miguel Leza, who ran with the bulls for his 32nd year in a row.

"You are up against a bull, a heavy animal, which can kill," he said.

Leza said the thrill drew him back to Pamplona every year.

"I like to be right close to the bulls. I feel the adrenaline, the fear too," he said.

The city of some 200,000 residents expects at least as many festival-goers as last year when 1.5 million people turned out and hotels reported a 95-percent occupancy rate.

The bull run can attract 2,000 to 3,500 runners trying to get as close as possible without being trampled or gored in an event popularised worldwide by Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises".

And every year between 200 and 300 participants in the run are injured. Most are hurt after falling but some are trampled or gored by the bulls despite increased safety measures.

The most recent death occurred two years ago when 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.

In the evenings after the daily chase, the beasts are killed in the bull ring and their meat is served up in city restaurants.

It is not only the bulls that are dangerous, though.

Organisers said two foreign tourists, whose identities were not given, suffered concussion after taking in part in the annual tradition of leaping from Pamplona's tall Navarreria fountain on Wednesday. They were later released from hospital.

This year organisers have launched a free iPhone app in English to help revellers to assess their chances of emerging from the bull runs intact.

It asks users about their behaviour at the festival, including how much they have had to drink and how many hours of sleep they have had.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform