Thousands take part in the first running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Spain

PAMPLONA, Spain (AP) — Thousands of thrill seekers took part in the first running of the bulls at the San Fermín festival in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona on Friday.

Several runners took hard knocks and falls during the 8 a.m. event, but no one was gored by the beasties, a frequent feature of the show.

The festival attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. Nearly 1.7 million people visited Pamplona for the celebrations in 2022, and the forecast is higher for this year with all COVID-19 constraints over.

In the race, six bulls led by six tamed oxen charged along a route through the streets of Pamplona for approximately two minutes and 30 seconds before reaching the bullring.

The festival was made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises”. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Hemingway’s first visit to the festival.

Friday’s race was the first of eight scheduled. The rest of the day usually includes massive sessions of drinking, eating, and attending cultural events.

Four riders were gored at the festival last year. Sixteen people have died in bullfights since 1910, the last in 2009.

The bulls that run each morning are killed in the afternoon by professional bullfighters.

Animal rights activists annually campaign against the festival, claiming it is cruel to animals.

Destino Navarra, an official tour guide group, said visitors from the United States and Canada make up 70% of its total bookings for this year’s festival.

Expert bull runners, mostly locals, try to sprint full steam ahead just past the bull horns before taking off at the last second. The Inexperienced, a group that includes most outsiders, do well enough to get out of the way, often finding themselves in heaps of other riders.

Almost everyone in Pamplona wears the traditional white shirt and trousers with a red belt and scarf during the colorful festival.

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