Since 1974: Celebrating 50 Years of Women Running with the Bulls

Since 1974: Celebrating 50 Years of Women Running with the Bulls

Today, women can run with the bulls in Spain, but it hasn't always been that way. For more than 700 years since the tradition began, only men participated in the world-famous bull runs of Pamplona, Spain. Women watched their loved ones from the safety of their balconies or behind the wooden barricades that lined the bull run.

Male-only bull runs, or encierros, started out as the norm, but they became an official law on July 1st, 1867. According to a 19th-century prohibition from Pamplona's Town Hall, women, elders, and children could not "situarse en las calles que recorre el ganado" or "be on the streets where the cattle run." 

However, in 1974, amidst the Feminist Liberation Movement, this law was finally reversed. No women ran with the bulls during that first year, but, in 1975, Mariví Mendiburu y Alicia Rivas shattered the glass ceiling – or should we say, the wooden barricades – becoming the first women to officially take on the challenge of running with the bulls. Talk about blazing a trail!

The upcoming Running of the Bulls festival in July 2024 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first year that women were allowed to run with the bulls in Pamplona. Much has changed in these fifty years, and running with the bulls is no longer considered a taboo for women. In fact, more and more women run with the bulls every year, and men who run with the bulls are overwhelmingly encouraging, supportive, and kind to the women who run.

Still, running with bulls - like most extreme sports - remains predominantly a boys' club. According to data from Pamplona's Town Hall, women make up only around 6% of participants in the bull runs at Pamplona's Running of the Bulls festival, also known as the festival of San Fermín or Los Sanfermines. Other estimates project the number of female runners to be far lower, stating that women making up only 2 or 3% of all runners. Notably, these numbers don't account for how many women who line up for the encierros actually run anywhere near the bulls: Watching videos of bull runs in Pamplona, sometimes you don't see any women at all. 

The low numbers of women who run with the bulls is likely due to many different factors, including outdated social norms as well as gender-based differences between men and women. Biological differences, such as women's lower propensity for thrill-seeking or recklessness, may partially explain the gap between the number of men and women who take part in this historic sport.

Whether the vast disparity between the numbers of men and women who run with the bulls will close in the next fifty years remains unknown. However, as a women-owned company in Pamplona, we are thrilled that - at the very least - women are no longer prohibited from participating in this sport. At BullBalcony, we are proud of the progress that Pamplona has made to make this festival welcoming to all revelers, and we look forward to continued progress in the pursuit of equality, adventure, and freedom.

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