Bullfighting is an ancient practice, which might well date back to the Bronze Age. In the 11th century, the Moors invading Spain killed bulls from their horses. Then, in 1726, a man named Francisco Romero became the first matador to fight bulls on the ground, rather than on horseback.
Today’s heroes in the eyes of Spain, Portugal, Mexico and other countries where bullfighting has become a national pastime are matadors who work their way up from training in the art of bullfighting to the main rings. They begin as boys as young as 12 years old (though most are 15 to 16), under the tutelage of retired matadors or other professionals who have vast experience in the bullring. There are no weight rooms or similar facilities; instead, these young boys are trained in the art of fencing, dodging, and feinting – all of which are vital to survival when a 1,400-pound bull is charging straight toward them.
In Spain and Portugal, especially, these boys (there are few girls or women involved in bullfighting) are almost always from the nation’s best families. They are driven to the sport through “hero worship” of famous matadors, or because they love the challenge of fighting animals that outweighs them by more than 1,200 pounds.
Boys training to be matadors practice with real bulls, though smaller ones, for many months. Most involved in the training never make the arenas, failing because they are not fast enough or are deemed not to have the grace and agility to survive against the giant bulls they would have to face. Just like athletes in baseball, basketball, football and other sports, most boys do well early on, but then give way to the few who have the real talent for bullfighting.
Each bullfighter challenges the bull with the traditional red cape, a large, flowing piece of cloth that is used to get the bull to charge at the matador. The purpose of the cape is to make the bull tired with repeated charges, so when the matador is ready to strike with his sword (the art of which he has learned through fencing lessons), the bull will be much slower than when he entered the ring.Paper Masters