Bloodless bullfighting

Bloodless bullfighting


There are no matadors or picadors, but bulls locking horns with each other draw big crowds to bullfights in the United Arab Emirates.

An hour's drive from the dancing water fountains of Dubai's glitzy downtown, hundreds of fans gather in Fujairah to watch bulls fighting with honour rather than money at stake.

. FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates. Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

Unlike the Spanish tradition which pits man against beast, the UAE sport involves two bulls locking horns in a three-to-four minute Sumo-wrestling-like fight that usually ends with no bloodshed.

"In the 20 years I've been watching bull fights, we've only had to put down two bulls," said Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Matrooshi, who owns 15 bulls.

He said that the fight usually isn't long enough for the animals to seriously harm one another - but the bull's sharp horns can lead to cuts and injuries.

"Sometimes, they injure their heads and get bloody from the fights," said Fahad Mohammad, who owns six bulls. But the spectators are diligent when it comes to separating them should the fighting get too intense.

. FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates. Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

The fights also can prove perilous to the spectators, with men and boys seated on plastic chairs in the ring itself always ready to spring to safety as the animals can easily smash into their seats.

"It's exciting for people to sit near the fight," said 29 year-old Mohammad. "But once the bull's blood gets hot, it's hard to calm him down. They will just want to fight and it doesn't matter against whom."

. FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates. Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

Under the rules, the first animal to disengage and walk away is declared the loser. If neither backs away it is a draw and about a dozen men separate them, dragging them apart with ropes.

"In Spain it's different, they kill (the bull)," said Al Matrooshi, 68, from the emirate of Ajman, who had six bulls fighting one day in Fujairah.

"Here, we do it for pride. If a bull runs away, then the other one is the winner."

There is no cash prize for matches in Fujairah where betting is not allowed under the emirate's Islamic laws. But bulls are investments and their value increases the more they win.

. FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates. Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

There is an active trade in bulls between Fujairah and neighbouring Oman, where the sport is even more popular with dozens of bull-fighting rings dotted throughout the country.

With entertainment in the UAE leaning toward extravagance and conspicuous consumption, bull fighting in Fujairah provides a free and family-friendly weekend activity.

About 40 bulls are brought into the fenced Fujairah arena once a week. The more cautious spectators, including women and children, take seats in the rings or sit perched atop SUVs eating ice cream or chopped mangoes sold during the event.