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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac: Korean Bullfighting

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about Korean bullfighting. Each year, handlers pit their bulls against each other in a contest that’s not a fight to the death.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood

[MUSIC: Ken Butler, "Instru-matics," GRAVIKORDS, WHIRLIES & PYROPHONES," (ellipsis - 1997)]

CURWOOD: If you're heading to the bullfighting festival in South Korea this week, you can check your red cape at the door. Bullfighting in the city of Chong-do has a twist. Instead of man against bull, the two partner up and compete against other teams. The bulls use techniques like pushing, head pressing, and horn bumping while their humans coach from the sidelines. A panel of judges scores the moves. And, according to William Dawson of the Korea National Tourism Organization, losing a match isn't life threatening.

Bull Fighting(Courtesy of Korea National Tourism Organization)

DAWSON: When a bull is finished and he's weak and he turns back and walks away, the bullfighting session is over. So, there's not the gore and the spectacle that we would associate with other types of bullfighting throughout the world.

CURWOOD: Korean bullfighting dates back to the onset of agrarian society. Farmers would pit their bulls against each other, to compete for more grazing space. But these days, the bulls have become an elite corps of athletes. Each bull weighs in at more than half a ton. They're given special foods, like ginseng, snakes and Chinese herbal medicine, to build their strength. To bulk up for the big day, they run over steep mountain paths, drag tires, and wade through sand. And heifers get their chance, as well, to shine during the festival's beauty pageant. When spectators aren't cheering on the bulls they can vote on a selection of bovine beauties. Holy cow! And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.




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