Rancho Santa Fe resident injured at bull event in Spain

A bull runs in the arena at the Bulls in the Sea event in Dénia, Spain.
(Patrick Rost)

Patrick Rost of Rancho Santa Fe survived an unexpected close encounter with a bull while visiting friends in Dénia, Spain this summer.

“It was fun until I almost got gored to death,” he said of his recent trip to the coastal town located between Alicante and Valencia, Spain.

The July bull run in Pamplona is perhaps the most famous, but many local festivals in Spain feature traditional bull runs. Rost got wrapped up in the events of Dénia’s Bous A La Mar Festival, also known as Bulls in the Sea.

After the bulls run down Dénia’s main boulevard, they enter the Plaza De Toros, an arena set up with access to the Costa Blanca of the Mediterranean Sea on one side. Young bulls enter the arena and contestants attempt to draw them into the water. If the bulls get too close, people can find protection in an area closed off with iron bars.

Amid some calls of animal cruelty, event organizers say the bulls are not harmed; once in the water, the bulls are lassoed and towed ashore by small boats.

“I had no intention of interacting with any bull and I wasn’t interested in provoking the bulls,” Rost said.

At the seaside arena, he watched as locals cheered and chased the bulls around the arena with pool noodles, many ending up in the water along with the bulls. After watching several bulls run, Rost left his seat and entered the arena finding a spot on top of a four-foot-tall platform.

“I was trying to get a better look at the bulls and was enjoying the energy of the crowd. Little did I know that the more aggressive and bigger bulls were being sent into the bull ring next,” he said. “Most of the previous bulls wouldn’t or couldn’t jump up on the platform so I thought it was safe.”

To his shock, one bull entered the arena and leaped four feet in the air and landed on the platform. It charged right at Rost.

“I swung around the side of a metal tower and he got me pretty good in the rib cage with his horn,” Rost said.

The only person left on the platform as the others had jumped down, he was able to keep swinging around the metal tower to put more distance between him and the bull. Rost eventually saw an opportunity to escape and jumped off the deck and ran for the safety enclosure. After a faceplant into the dirt, he made it behind the bars.

Rost knows he was lucky, he came away with a nasty bruise and an abrasion but he heard five other people ended up in the hospital with worse injuries that day. This summer, three people have been killed after being gored by bulls at festivals in the Valencia region of Spain.

Rost traveled back safely to Rancho Santa Fe on July 19 with his battle scars and armed with a story his son said he won’t soon tire of telling. Rost said he doesn’t anticipate any more risk-taking adventures with bulls: “I think I’m retired now.”