A man taunts a half-ton bull. The bull turns and fixes its eyes on the man and charges. Ignoring the hundreds of other men, the bull zones in on the man who’s now sprinting for his life–but he’s too slow. The bull’s horns hook the man’s trousers and the animal flips him into the air like a rag doll. The man crawls out of the ring to the doctors waiting outside.
It’s one of the world’s most exciting sports, a mix of balletic, bloody Spanish Bullfighting and the bro-brainless team tomfoolery of Jackass– but with a serious body count.
These are the corralejas, Colombia’s gift to the world of extreme sports. In a wooden coliseum filled with hundreds of drunken men, bulls are let loose, with predictable results of blood and mayhem. In the stands above, the crowd dances to live music and drinks rum and beer all afternoon.
The sport occurs in the country’s sweltering Caribbean coast, Colombia’s cattle land. No one knows when the sport started, only that it was another of the traditions the Spanish colonizers left behind.
Among the men in the ring are a small group of professional bullfighters. With names like Tiger, Death and Mandarina, they are legends in the small towns where the corralejas take place. They perform a range of tricks from working the cape to diving through a charging bull’s horns.
Gorings are daily and deaths are frequent – but the bull never dies. After a couple of minutes in the ring, each bull is lassoed, and another fresh animal is released.
An old saying in Spanish bullfighting justifies killing the bull after every fight: “What takes a man a lifetime to learn, a bull learns in an afternoon.” In the corralejas, these bulls, bred for their aggression, have dozens of afternoons of experience fighting men, and it shows. Bulls fake one way, only to charge another.
Here, the bull is king. People still reminisce over the legendary bulls of yesteryear–Yakobo and 7 Boxes (so called for reportedly sending 7 men to their coffins in one year).
At the end of the day, as the Caribbean sun sets, the bulls are loaded on to the trucks, and those spectators not too injured to walk continue to party into the night.
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