Cheongdo International Bullfighting Festival

Cheongdo-gun is a rural county in the North Gyeongsang Province of South Korea, about an hour by train from Busan. It appears to be known for little else besides its annual international bullfighting festival, which I attended this past weekend. I did not enjoy it. It is neither entertaining nor humane. I'm not sure why I expected anything different. But even humanity aside, the fights themselves are rather slow and uneventful.

Unlike Spanish bullfighting, there is no matador. Two bulls are pitted against each other in what is mostly a headbutting affair. Before the fight, the bulls have ropes looped through their noses, and two handlers, one for each bull, manipulate them like marionettes in an effort to engage them in a fight, at which point the ropes are quickly removed. The first bull to run away loses.

They do not fight to the death (or even serious injury, it appeared). From a distance it appears they are not even really hurting each other, but if you watch through binoculars you can clearly see bulls bleeding from the head. That doesn't strike me as particularly enjoyable for the bulls.

In this first photograph, the figure in the red (on the right) was just knocked down by the bull to his right (running away) while the second man in the red runs to his assistance. The man took what appeared to be a vicious hit, but minutes later he was back in the ring manipulating bulls.


This is a bull being led to fight. Each bull is branded with his name.