Bullfighting is certainly one of the best-known-although at the same time most controversial-Spanish popular customs. This Fiesta could not exist without the toro bravo, a species of bull of an ancient race that is only conserved in Spain.
Bullfighting has a lot of rules, and etiquette, and aficionados tend to be the most critical of matadors and toreros who break the main bullfighting rules or literally step out of place because they are students and know the rules well.
The main bullfighting rules, and the bullfight itself, are intended to minimize unwarranted harm to the animal and maximize the element of danger to the matador, and therefore spectacle.
The bullfight has its origins from experience, from the observation of the semi-wild natural state of most bulls - especially the "semental," the seed bulls.
The modern bullfight - that is, a matador alone on foot facing the much larger, heavier and more powerful animal - boils down to three acts or "tercios." In the first act, the bull, the "protagonist," is allowed into the ring, an open space with limits much larger than the smaller, dark space where the bulls have been kept awaiting this moment that afternoon. Prior to being kept in a pen area beneath the stands that lets out onto the ring, the bulls are corralled outdoors.
The ring is covered with beige sand, "arena," and enclosed by a barrier - the "barrera." At two points on opposing sides of the ring are wooden walls, "burladeros," behind which it appears toreros hide and taunt the bull. In essence, what they actually are doing is testing the bull's reactions to movement, and sound, and provocation.
Torero is the general term for anyone who works with bulls. Matador - the person who kills - is the person who's job it is to kill the bull, and is like the captain of a team, directing assistants toward that end.
From the moment the bull enters the ring, you will see the matador directing his team to get the results desired. You will also see and hear the comments from the aficionados - the students of tauromaquia - and their judgment of the appropriate or inappropriateness of the matador's actions and those of the matador's team.
This is the stage when the matador must perform a series of "faenas," or tasks, demonstrating through handling of the cape the matador's confidence and faith in personal ability and the bull's instinctual movement. It has been said this is when the matador demonstrates domination of the bull. In reality, this is when the matador fulfills the task of the fight, the purpose of the demonstration using the main bullfighting rules - this is when the matador proves that art and intelligence are superior to brute force and instinct, and that those qualities that make humanity higher than other animals are those qualities that allow humanity to survive even a contest with an animal that has several other natural advantages.
One should notice that the main bullfighting rules don't approve painful killing. A badly placed killing sword results in a punctured lung on the bull, often, which causes the bull to pant with its tongue lolling to the side as blood pours out of its mouth while it drowns in its own blood. Aficionados do not like to see a bull tortured, and they are at times harder on matadors who kill badly or not strong at the representing bullfighting rules knowledge- causing that sort of injury - than matadors who can't successfully place the sword without it flying out of the bull.