All throughout the year, but particularly during local festivals, a number of bull-related sports and events take place all over Spain. While the festivities vary, the bull-related events most invariably involve thrill seekers throwing themselves in front of a herd of bulls while the agitated animals chase them through the streets. The most famous of these events is the “Running of the Bulls” that takes place during the festival of San Fermin in Pamplona. In the seaside town of Denia in the province of Alicante, 600 km south of Pamplona, a different type of bull running takes place — one that has more to do with swimming than fighting. It is called Bous a la Mar — literally, “bulls to the sea”.
The ceremony begins with bulls chasing young boys down the Calle Marques de Campo, the town's main boulevard, down to the specially designed arena in the port. Three sides of the square arena are closed off with iron bars just wide enough for humans to slide in and out of the arena should the bull get too close. The fourth side opens out into the harbor, with an approximately one-meter drop between the sanded arena floor and the water.
One by one, the bulls are released into the arena, and willing participants then tease the bulls and try to get them into the water. The one who succeeds in making the bull fall into the water is considered the winner.
Bous a la Mar has been held annually since at least 1926 as part of the festival of Santisima Sangre, or "holy blood," which commemorates a monk named Pedro Esteve who is said to have saved the town from plague in 1633. The festival takes place during the second week of July, around the same time San Fermin takes place.
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