What Kind of Bulls Are Used in Spanish Bull Fights?

Spanish fighting bulls must be 4 years of age to face a matador.
Spanish fighting bulls must be 4 years of age to face a matador. (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Bullfighting has existed for hundreds of years. It was popular in ancient Rome and is now part of Spanish culture. Bullfighting in its present form has been essentially the same for about 300 years. The bulls used in Spain are bred specifically for the purpose of bullfighting. Most large Spanish towns have their own bullring, and the people attend bullfights for the color and excitement. Animal rights activists say bullfighting is inhumane, and it has been banned in many countries.

The Breed

Bulls used in Spanish bullfighting are a subspecies of cattle called Bos Taurus Ibericus. The bulls are known as Toro Bravo or the Iberian bull, and are also called toro de lidia, toro lidiado, ganado bravo and Touro de Lide. They are mostly bred on large free-range ranches in the south of Spain, Portugal and Latin American countries where bullfighting is practiced. Most bulls are black or dark brown, but they can also be red, chestnut, gray, roan, brindled or have white patches.


Spanish fighting bulls mature more slowly than cattle bred for meat. They have an elegant stature with a long curved neck and a well-muscled athletic appearance. They have heavy muscling over the shoulders and neck, and a high-held head. They have long horns, slender legs and when mature weigh from 1,100 to 1,600 lbs. They are naturally aggressive and will charge at many things. They must also have strength and stamina.


The bulls are thought to have descended from wild bulls from the Iberian Peninsula that were used for Colosseum games by the Roman Empire. Genetic studies show them to have an old genetic pool with DNA that is normally found in African cattle that may have been introduced during the Moorish occupation of Spain. There are only about four different bloodlines in existence. In May 2010, the first Spanish fighting bull was cloned and implanted into a Holstein host mother.

Age of Fighting Bulls

The bulls are evaluated when they are 3 years of age. The best bulls are kept for full matadors. Others are used to fight training matadors, known as novilleros. Bulls fought by full matadors must be at least 4 years old. They must have fully functional vision and have horns that are even in size and shape and have not been blunted or tampered with. In first-rank bullrings, the bull must weigh at least 1,010 lbs. Second-rank bullrings require a minimum bull weight of 960 lbs., and third-rank bullrings require a minimum weight of 905 lbs.

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