Tag Archives: bullfighting

Strangely, Not True

Strangely Not TrueCoincidences.

They bind us all together. They divide us. They are unlikely, yet they happen every day. They are a mystery, waiting to be unlocked by an enigma in the shape of a key.

On this episode of Strangely, Not True, we look at the case of two brothers; originally the best of friends, but ultimately struck down by Coincidence.

These two brothers were twins named John and James Smith, from Winnipeg, Manitoba. However, in order to protect their identity, we shall refer to them as Rufus and Halibut.

Rufus and Halibut were the best of friends. They were so close that they rarely spoke to their parents. They only grunted at their teachers. They had no other friends. If anyone tried to talk to them, the brothers would turn on them and beat them until the unfortunate person ran away, sobbing.

That was just how close they were.

All of this changed one day when they had a sudden falling out…

…of an airplane.

The fight started innocently enough. The two brothers were going sky-diving. The door opened and the light turned green.

“After you,” Rufus shouted over the noise of the wind.

“No, after you,” Halibut shouted back.

“I insist,” Rufus bellowed.

“So do I,” Halibut screamed.

This quickly degenerated into a full, knock-down fight and a minute later, the two boys were spinning through the air, falling to earth and exchanging punches. Luckily, their parachutes opened automatically. They gently floated to the ground, still whaling on each other, and from that day forward, they never spoke another word to each other.

Rufus moved to Spain and became a bullfighter. He married an Italian stockbroker and had five children.

Halibut moved the outback of Australia and became a world-famous didgeridoo maker. He did not marry but was an object of attraction for all of the Aborigine women in the area.

Still, the two brother did not forget each other. At times, Rufus would be in the bullfighting ring and he would suddenly see his brother’s face in the crowd. At other times, he would be eating paella and suddenly think of joke that Halibut had told and he would laugh so hard that paella would spray across the room.

Halibut was no different. One evening he heard a kookaburra laugh in a tree nearby and thought, “That is just how Rufus would laugh when I tickled his nose. And he loved eating cute and cuddly things, like that wallaby over there.”

Rufus tried to contact Halibut but it was impossible. Halibut was not on Facebook. Halibut’s efforts to contact Rufus were likewise in vain: Rufus did not have a Twitter account. It was hopeless.

Finally, one June day, Rufus returned to go sky-diving alone where he and Halibut had gone. Halibut went hiking alone to the place where they had landed and seen each other last. As Rufus was falling through the air, the parachute did not open. He realized he did not know how to open it. Last time it had opened by itself while he had been fighting. He tried punching himself in the face a few times, but it did no good

Halibut stood at the site where the two of them had seen each other last. “Oh, Rufus!” he cried. “If only I could see you again, just for a moment.”

He looked up just as Rufus landed on him. Both were killed instantly.

Take this tale of two brothers as a cautionary tale. Be sure to correct anyone who says that the fate of these unfortunate men was due to mere chance. It was not chance: it was Coincidence. Be on guard, lest coincidence strike you too, when you least expect it.

Until next time, this has been Strangely, Not True.

My Experience with Korean Bullfighting

When we think of bullfighting, the image that comes to mind is undoubtedly Spanish: matadors, flashing capes, and Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon.

Korean bullfighting is very different. There are no humans combatants: the bulls fight each other, and it is more like wresting than a death struggle. The bulls do have sharp horns so it is possible to draw blood, but that is pretty rare and bulls being injured or killed is all but unheard of. At least in my experience, I have never seen it.

bullfighting 1

I first heard about Korean bullfighting (called so-ssaeum, or 소싸음) from a co-worker of mine, who mentioned that there was an annual festival near Daegu. I was intrigued, because for a Canadian, the whole idea of bullfighting is very strange and exotic. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the town where I teach has an annual bullfighting tournament as well.

I went after school, the only non-Korean in a crowd of several hundred people. The ring was fenced off by wooden poles and the entrance was built like a tunnel through a high bank, where the people sat. It may seem like this did not give much protection, but in Korean bullfighting, the bulls are fairly docile and do not attack people. They are very used to being handled and taken care of and they only fight each other. That being said, I still wouldn’t play around with a 1-ton bull that didn’t know me.

bulfighting 2

The tournament is four days long and has a festival atmosphere to it. Besides the fights, there are also booths selling food and local products, plus a stage for music. People sit on the ground under tents to watch the fights.

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The bulls are tied up in booths in a separate area until it is time for their fight. They are sent to fight in a rotation and then on the last day, the semi-final and final matches are fought to decide the ultimate champion.

bullfighting 4

bull closeup

When it is time for their fight, the owners leads the bulls into the ring one at a time, leading them by a rope tied to the ring in their nose. The only people allowed in the ring are the bull owners and the referees.

bullfighting 5

The referees wear special uniforms. The bulls are not subject to any rules, of course, but the referees make sure the owners do not interfere. Occasionally, one of the bulls will refuse to fight and the referees call a forfeit after a certain amount of time.

bullfighting 6

The bulls fight by butting their heads together and trying to twist around to jab each other with their horns. Their skin is so thick that although I’m sure it hurts to get jabbed with a horn, I never saw a bull draw blood with its horns.

bullfighting 7

One of the owners is designated blue and the other is red, as shown by the vests they wear. They usually stand near the bulls and shout encouragement and are ready to catch them, if need be.

bullfighting 8

I saw one fight where the man in the ring wearing the owner’s vest wasn’t actually the owner, but an employee. The real owner did not like what he was doing and kept yelling at him, but the man in the ring just ignored him. Finally, the owner walked into the ring, picked up the man bodily and carried him out of the ring, while the crowd roared with laughter. Then the owner put on the vest and came in to finish the fight. Not that the bulls took any notice, of course.

bullfighting 9

Luckily the employee was much smaller than the owner.

The fight lasts until one of the bulls gives up, usually by suddenly breaking off and running away. Most fights only last a few minutes, although some can go 15 minutes or more. The very long fights are pretty intense, especially when you consider that the bulls are straining against each other in the hot sun the whole time; almost a ton of muscle pushing in each direction. Always though, one of the bulls runs away eventually and a roar goes up from the crowd, of congratulations for the winner, or derision for the losing bull.

bullfighting 10

The fight is over. This owner fell down trying to catch his bull.

The bulls then go back through the tunnel to the stalls, very hot and thirsty. The owners hose them down, give them a lot of water and put them back in the shade to wait, either to go home or to fight again.

bullfighting 11

Overall, it was a very interesting experience. While some people may argue that it is exploitive of animals, it is much more humane than the Spanish variety, where the animal always dies in the end. Also, because the bulls are evenly matched, the outcome is not a foregone conclusion, as with Spanish bullfighting. Yes, there is some tension as to whether the matador will emerge unscathed, but ultimately, the bull never wins. In Korean bullfighting, there is a certain majesty watching two huge animals wrestle as they might in the wild and they also live to tell about it.

What do you think? Do you think this is an improvement on other types of animal sports or is it all cruel and manipulative? Let me know in the comments.

bullfighting 12

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