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February 24, 2011

Child Bullfighters

Humane Society International

  • Some say there are two victims when a child fights a calf. Child bullfights take place in Mexico, including this one held in San Miguel de Allende. HSI

  • Many of the novilleros (child bullfighters) at this fight are eleven. Younger bullfighters also work in Mexico. HSI

  • When calves enter the bullfighting ring, they are often confused. HSI

  • The children are trained to provoke calves until they charge. HSI

  • Once they provoke the calves to charge, novilleros are in danger of injury. HSI

  • A child spears a calf with a banderilla (a wooden stick with a spiked end). Being speared with banderillas is painful for the calves. HSI

  • The calves suffer from exhaustion as well as injury. Adults roughly handle the calves before, during, and after the bullfight. HSI

  • Girls also take part in these bloody spectacles. HSI

  • Many spectators are tourists from the United States and Canada. Empty seats are a frequent sight at bullfights. HSI

Started young

There are no laws in Mexico limiting the age of bullfighters, whereas in Spain, no child younger than 16 is allowed to enter the ring. For this very reason, many young children travel to Mexico to pursue their careers in bullfighting. Bullfighting schools that train children are becoming more and more common in Mexico. According to former matador Francisco Parra, some Mexican bullfighting schools accept kids as young as six [1]. Michel Lagravere Peniche, one of the youngest matadors in Mexico, has been training since the age of three.

Child endangerment

Child bullfighters are faced with real danger of both serious injury and death in the ring. In 2007, a 14-year old Spanish bullfighter almost died while bullfighting in Mexico. The animal pierced his left lung, missing his heart by only an inch. Inaki Negrete of the Mexican Association of Fighting Bull Breeders warns that child bullfighting is very dangerous for the young bullfighters [2]. Some child bullfights end in the death of the animal.

Child bullfighters are seen as a new way to reel in spectators to the arena and are paid large amounts of money by bullfighting promoters.

A note of explanation

Calves are animals under three years of age and young bulls are between three and four years of age. The young bullfighters are called “niños toreros” when they fight calves and “novilleros” when they fight young bulls. These events are called “becerradas” when calves are used and “novilladas” when young bulls are used.


¹Kocherga, Angela.  2008.  Child bullfighters face death in the ring.  http://www.khou.com/topstories/stories/khou080219_tnt_kidbullfighters.a5d1337.html.  Accessed July 16, 2008.

²Foxnews.com. 2007.  14-Year-Old Bullfighter Gored in Mexico.  http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,266401,00.html.  Accessed July 14, 2008.

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