The running of the bulls is the most famous part of the city's annual San Fermin festival.

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AMID CHAOS, glee and fear, revelers in Spain soon will run again with angry bulls in the city of Pamplona.

It’s the most famous — or infamous — part of the city’s annual July 6-14 San Fermin festival, a whirlwind of parades and parties, fireworks and music, bull-running and bullfights.

In the daily morning bull runs, hundreds of adrenaline-charged tourists and locals try to race ahead of the bulls on a 900-yard course through Pamplona’s narrow streets. A half-dozen bulls and a half-dozen steers (who keep the bulls slightly in check) thunder along the cobblestones as spectators holler and cheer, hanging out of every window and balcony. Some runners make it into the bullfight arena ahead of the bulls; others take refuge in doorways as the bulls pound past. Every year runners are injured when they pile up against each other or slip and fall. Occasionally, bulls gore runners, and about 15 people have died since the running of the bulls began in the early 1900s.

Coming right along with the festival is the annual protest in Pamplona by animal-rights groups. (PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is one of the major bullfighting opponents.)

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Several dozen nearly naked protesters lay down in a Pamplona street last year and spelled out “Stop bullfights” with their bodies. In other years, protesters have run through the streets wearing red scarves (like those traditionally worn by runners with the bulls), plastic bullhorn hats and not much else.

It’s a wild spectacle from all sides.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at

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