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Why A Red Cape Means Nothing To The Bull In A Bullfight

Bullfighting is a blood sport mostly banned around the world but still practiced in Spain, Portugal, France, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and the USA. The first official bullfight, or corrida de Toros, happened in 1158 Spain to honour King Alfonso VIII of Castile at his coronation. Afterwards, kings organized corridas to commemorate special events and entertain guests. The corridas expanded to different parts of the world during the Reconquista period.

This blood sport is divided into third parts (terios) of the spectacle: picadors, banderilleros and matador de Toros. In the first tercio of the picadors, the bull is placed in a ring where a matador teases the bull with a larger red cape (capote) to enrage the bull. Then the matador fights the bull by spearing the bull with colourful barbed sticks (banderillas) in the bull’s shoulder. In the final act, the matador kills the bull by stating it in the heart between the shoulders at the end of the third act with a small red cape with a stick adhered to it (known as a muleta) and a real steel blade. In bullfighting, a matador moves the red cape in a swirling dancing motion to attract and enrage the bull. The bull is not enraged because the cape is red, it’s because it’s swirling in front of him.

The technique that most matadors use is called the Veronica named after Saint Veronica where the cape is draped over the eyes of the animal when running through it. The various steps in the “taming of the bull” involve the cape swirling, jiggling and throwing around the cape near the bull. This is the reason why the bull is enraged because of the movement of the cape. The bull is irritated and doesn’t want the cape to move.

The colour of the cape doesn’t matter even if the cape is red. The colour is for the audience since the colour is noticeable from far away. But the cape colour is inconsistent. It’s sometimes bright green, pink, a deep yellow other than just red. These colours have one thing in common, the hue is close to gray shadow tones which highlight the movements of the fabric.

Bulls can not see red. Bulls are actually protanopia. They have partial colour blindness to red and are only able to see yellow, blue, violet and green because they only have two colour receptors. The cape works the same way Blaze Orange works against deers in the woods. The cape to the bull looks yellowish-gray. But the red cape isn’t for the bull, it is for the audience to cover up the blood of the bull. The sport is very violent. The bull dies at the end of the battle or is sometimes killed off stage by handlers.


Reference:

(Video) The Art of Bullfighting (2002) – Journeyman Pictures

(Video) Catalonia’s Last Bullfight – Al Jazeera English

West Texas A&M University (Dr. C. Baird) – What is it about red that makes bulls so angry?

Madrid Bullfighting – How Does Bullfighting Work?

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