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Blue is thought by some to draw the bulls' attention.
The encierro of Pamplona has been depicted many times in literature, television or advertising, but became known worldwide partly because of the descriptions of Ernest Hemingway in books The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon.
The fastest part of the route is up Santo Domingo and across the Town Hall Square, but the bulls often became separated at the entrance to Estafeta Street as they slowed down.
One or more would slip going into the turn at Estafeta ("la curva"), resulting in the installation of anti-slip surfacing, and now most of the bulls negotiate the turn onto Estafeta and are often ahead of the steers. Runners are not permitted in the first 50 meters of the encierro, which is an uphill grade where the bulls are much faster.
When the popularity of this practice increased and was noticed more and more by the expanding population of Spanish cities, a tradition was created and stands to this day.
The first bull running is on 7 July, followed by one on each of the following mornings of the festival, beginning every day at 8 am.
In 2013, for example, six participants were gored along the festival, in 2012, only four runners were injured by the horns of the bulls with exactly the same number of gored people in 2011, nine in 2010 and 10 in 2009; with one of the latter killed.
In Pamplona and other places, the six bulls in the event are still those that will feature in the afternoon bullfight of the same day.
Spanish tradition says the true origin of the run began in northeastern Spain during the early 14th century.
The encierro is usually composed of the six bulls to be fought in the afternoon, six steers that run in herd with the bulls, and three more steers that follow the herd to encourage any reluctant bulls to continue along the route.
The function of the steers, who run the route daily, is to guide the bulls to the bullring. It goes through four streets of the old part of the city (Santo Domingo, Ayuntamiento, Mercaderes and Estafeta) via the Town Hall Square and the short section "Telefónica" (named for the location of the old telephone office at end of Calle Estafeta) just before entering into the bullring through its callejón (tunnel).