Once all the bulls and bell-oxen have passed, the runners can leave off running, but it is important to continue to keep alert. And the runners should remain alert until they hear the sound of the exploding rocket set off to announce that the entrance gate is closed and all the bulls are now safely inside the bullring (Check how the rockets are used as signals at Sanfermin.com). At the sound of this final rocket we now know that there is no chance that the bulls could turn back along the course from the bullring. Another rocket will then be set off to announce that the bulls are now safely in the pens. Finally, some of the harmless bell-oxen used as “sweepers-up” will now pass along the stretch of the course to join their brothers inside the bullring and which had earlier run with the bulls.
Along the length of the course of the running of the bulls there are two gates used to prevent the bulls from turning back, but things can happen and maybe the gates are not always able to be closed correctly. In these shots taken by Juantxo Erce we see how one of the straggling bell-oxen finds the Estafeta gate closed and the animal turns back. In these snapshots from Iosu Pezonaga, Miguel Fernández and Mikel Lasa we can see how the animal ran at a very fast pace and knocked over some runners. The best thing to do in a situation like this is to keep apart and let the bull-minders do their work with the animal. Even though it is a meek bell-ox, it is an example of how things can go wrong and for the need to stay alert. Some of these animals are very heavy and just accidently running into a runner could cause the person some injury. And of course, if it is a bull which has turned back along the course, the situation is extremely dangerous – something which has happened in the past and caused some serious gorings.
Photo by Miguel Fernández