Accepted Paper:

Finding the wild in an urban setting  


Diana Kerr (University of Wales, Trinity St David)

Paper short abstract:

Western travellers do not necessarily have to venture to non-Western countries to encounter the seductive force of interaction with wild animals. Spain’s bull running festivals are an alternative tourist destination which encompasses all facets of the wild animal-human experience.

Paper long abstract:

Although traditionally wild animal tours have been in Africa, they are not limited to the Dark Continent. Spain's bull running festivals have enjoyed a rise in tourism. Western travellers do not have to venture to non-Western countries to interact with wild animals. What draws the Western tourist to these destinations: the animal-human experience and its direct interaction; a conquering of the beast without the personal kill; or the romantic ideal or imagery of the danger? Spain's bull running festivals meet all these.

One might even argue that participation in the Spanish bull running is a form of replacement for the big game hunting safari tours of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The urban location of the wild animal-human encounter in Spain creates a particular liminality in a normal setting. The attendant festivities which accompany the bull running are a draw as well, as they provide alternative entertainment for others not participating in the running.

Why do people choose Spain's bull running as opposed to an African safari? Does the choice derive from a sense of it being an overall "safe" vacation despite the possible danger from direct interaction with the bull, because the destination is comfortably exotic, or because Spain provides the modern amenities with the danger? This paper will discuss Spanish bull running as a tourist attraction focusing on the festival of Grazalema de le Sierra in Andalucia. I will analyse where Western tourists come from, what level they participate and why.

Panel P12
Gazing at the game: the anthropology of tourists' wild-animal encounters