How is the actual bull run structured?

The event is organized into multiple “runs” of up to 600 adrenaline junkies and up to eighteen bulls, and takes place on a dirt horse racing track, not on city streets (see the FAQ entry on safety to learn why). However, the phrase “running with the bulls” is a bit misleading. This isn’t a “run” or “race” in any sense of the word. What actually happens (both in Spain and here in the U.S.), is that you pick a spot somewhere on the quarter-mile course and wait for the bulls to come to you. Everyone doesn’t just line up at a starting line like in a marathon. You only start running when the bulls get close to where you are, and then you run beside them and try to keep up with them for as long as you can before they leave you in the dust. But because bulls run much faster than humans, you won’t be running alongside them for more than a few seconds. However, we’ve decided that a few seconds just isn’t enough quality time with our bulls, so we release the bulls in three separate groups during each run so you get to experience multiple passes of the bulls (unlike in Spain)!

Once released, the bulls will run down the middle of the track to the corral at the other end. This means you need to stay out of the middle of the track so the bulls have enough room to run (and so you don’t get trampled). However, once the bulls and people get moving together, it gets pretty chaotic. These bulls aren’t sheep at a petting zoo; they WILL run you over if you’re in their way. But bulls aren’t wolves, either. They won’t go out of their way to attack you during the run.

Professional bull handlers will be stationed along the course to supervise the run and medical staff will be on site in case of injuries. However, you’re solely responsible for your own safety when you’re on the track. Although The Great Bull Run involves serious risks, you can attempt to control the amount of danger you face during the run:

  • Those who desire the most danger can run alongside the bulls as they pass.
  • Those who want some danger but aren’t crazy enough to try and dodge bulls should stick close to the track fencing and let the bulls pass at a safe distance. There will be nooks along the way that you can duck into to seek shelter if the bulls start to veer closer to the fence (see Fig. 1), but they don’t offer 100% protection, so be prepared to climb over the track fence if necessary to avoid a bull.
  • Those who want the least amount of risk should start their run in a nook and stay there as the bulls pass.

Fences_edited

Figure 1. Course Diagram

What are the rules of The Great Bull Run?

Failure to follow any of these rules or the instructions of the event staff will result in your immediate removal from the event venue:

  • Runners must be at least 18 years old on the day of the run to participate. A valid government ID is required.
  • Don’t hit, slap, harass or mistreat the bulls in any way.
  • Visibly intoxicated attendees will NOT be allowed to run and will NOT receive a refund.
  • Don’t run against the flow or stop in the middle of the track.
  • Don’t wear clothing or costumes that will obstruct your vision or otherwise impede your ability to run.  You MUST wear closed-toe shoes and clothes that allow for freedom of movement.
  • If you fall down, stay down and cover your head until the bulls pass. Bulls tend to jump over you if you’re on the ground, but will hammer you if you try to get up.  This isn’t guaranteed to protect you, but it increases your chances of avoiding a more serious injury.
  • We recommend not carrying anything in your hands while running. You’ll need your hands free to climb the fence or cover your head if you fall.  If your own safety isn’t a good enough reason, think of your phone/camera.  We scrape up countless crushed phones and cameras after each event.
  • It’s each runner’s responsibility to familiarize themselves with the layout of the track prior to the run in order to complete the run as safely as possible.
  • No signs or protests are allowed except in designated areas, if any.

Is running with bulls safe?

OF COURSE NOT!  Much like rock climbing, mountain biking, skydiving, and other extreme sports, running with real bulls is an inherently dangerous activity (which is why it’s so thrilling).  By participating in the run, you accept the risk that you might be trampled, gored, rammed, or tossed in the air by a bull, or bumped, jostled, tripped, or trampled by your fellow runners.  Make no mistake: you could get seriously injured in this event.  That’s why there’s medical staff on site at all times.

Interesting fact:  There have been only fifteen deaths in the Pamplona running of the bulls in the past 103 years!  Even so, we’ve added significantly more safety precautions for The Great Bull Run to further reduce that risk and to help ensure the health and safety of our bulls (but our lawyers insist that we make it clear that you could still die).

First, we run only on dirt or grass, not through city streets, in order to prevent the slips and falls that often injure bulls in Spain due to their inability to gain traction on pavement.  Similarly, our courses don’t utilize sharp turns that bulls can’t navigate, which in Spain often leads to pileups of bulls and humans.  Second, our courses aren’t walled in by buildings, which in Spain leave runners with no possible escape route.  Instead, we construct the track using cattle fencing that allows runners to easily climb over to get out of the way of a charging bull.  We also design nooks in the fencing that allow runners to sidestep incoming danger, if necessary. Finally (and most importantly), we don’t file our bulls’ horns to razor-sharp points like they do in Spain!

Are the bulls killed or abused?

NO!  Unlike the running of the bulls in Spain, we don’t kill the bulls in a bullfight, nor do we abuse them IN ANY WAY.  In fact, the USDA and The Humane Society have inspected our events and found no animal abuse.  We don’t hit our bulls, shock them, or deprive them of food, water, light, or sleep. In fact, we’ve taken numerous measures to ensure our bulls remain safe and healthy at all times.  First, we run only on dirt or grass, not through city streets, in order to prevent the slips and falls that often injure bulls in Spain due to their inability to gain traction on pavement.  Similarly, our courses don’t utilize sharp turns that bulls can’t navigate, which in Spain often leads to pileups of bulls and humans.  Second, our bulls have been trained to run the course without physical contact and to be accustomed to large crowds of humans, thereby eliminating any stress or fear on their part.

Third, we have a veterinarian on site at all times to monitor the health and treatment of the bulls.  As soon as the bulls arrive on location, they’re examined to ensure they’re completely healthy.  They’re examined again before and after each individual run throughout the day.  Any bull that is deemed unfit to run will be removed from the event and attended to by a veterinarian specializing in large animals.  Finally, the bulls are transported in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations governing the distance and time that livestock can travel each day.  Following each event, the bulls return to the open-air ranch where they’re tended by veterinarians and professional bull handlers.

How long is the “run”?

Our course is a quarter mile (Pamplona’s course is only a half mile), but you won’t run more than 100 feet!  You see, the phrase “running with the bulls” is a bit misleading.  The bulls do the running; you simply get out of their way.  What actually happens (both in Spain and here in the U.S.), is that you pick a spot somewhere on the quarter-mile course and wait for the bulls to come to you.  Everyone doesn’t just line up at a starting line like in a marathon.  The runners spread out all through the course and wait by the track fencing for the bulls to be released.  You only start running when the bulls get close to where you are, and then you run beside them for a few seconds before they leave you in the dust.  So don’t think of this as a race or long-distance run. It’s more like a series of short sprints.

This is awesome! How do I sign up?!

Click on TICKETS and then scroll down to select your ticket option:  RUNNER, SPECTATOR, or VOLUNTEER.  See below for what each ticket gets you.  If you’re signing up as a runner, you’ll need to choose what time you want to participate, since there are several runs throughout the day.  Complete the remainder of the online registration form and submit your payment.  You’ll then be all set for the adventure of a lifetime!

What does a runner registration for The Great Bull Run include?

  • One run with the bulls (must be 18 or older)
  • A commemorative soft-cotton t-shirt
  • A commemorative bandana
  • One beer (if 21+)
  • Access to the day-long festival featuring great music, tasty food, fun games, and cold beer

What does a spectator registration include?

  • The venue has excellent spectator viewing areas next to The Great Bull Run track!  Come out and cheer on your friends and family as they participate in the craziest day of their lives, then celebrate with them in the massive day-long festival featuring great music, tasty food, fun games, and cold beer!
  • Children 13 and under get in free!

What does a volunteer registration include?

Volunteer at The Great Bull Run and run with the bulls for FREE!  Morning volunteers work from 11:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. and can run with the bulls after their shift in the 4 p.m. run.  Afternoon volunteers work from 2:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. and can run before their shift in the 2 p.m. run.  Volunteers will be assigned a position in the ticket sales tent or merchandise tent.  Learn more >>

What You Get:

  • One run with the bulls (must be 18 or older)
  • A commemorative soft-cotton t-shirt
  • A commemorative bandana
  • A volunteer t-shirt
  • One free beer (21+)

What happens if it rains?

If there’s light rain and temperatures above 50 degrees, the event will go on as planned.  Severe weather, including heavy rain and cold temperatures, sleet, snow, high winds, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or other like occurrences may cause the event to be moved to Sunday.  If the severe weather persists throughout Sunday, the event will be rescheduled for the next available weekend date at the venue.  What constitutes severe weather will be determined by The Great Bull Run at its sole discretion.

Are dogs allowed?

NO.  Because there will be horses and bulls on site that could be spooked by the presence of dogs, we can’t allow them to enter the venue at all, including the festival area.

Can I wear a GoPro?

YES!  You can wear a GoPro or other action camera during The Great Bull Run, as long as it doesn’t restrict your ability to run or climb the fence, or pose a danger to your fellow runners.  You cannot wear a camera that sticks out far from your body, nor can you carry a pole with a camera attached to it.