Bullfights are possible because in Spain the race of wild bulls has not died out, and stockbreeders have been able to select, little by little, from this population of primitive and wild bovines, fighting bulls which are characterized by their possession of two spiritual qualities which distinguish them from the rest of their kind: ferocity and nobility. A ferocious bull is an animal of hard-headed behaviour, which always exhibits an aggressive combativity that impels it to repeat its charge again and again, in other words, to show tirelessly and repeatedly its combative nature.
Bos Primigenius, the primitive urus, is believed to be almost the only ancestral form of the domestic bovines, and which spread its influence by means of strong migrations from the Middle East to North Africa and the south of the Iberian Peninsula, where domestic cattle arrived by two routes: one from the North, with the Celts, and the other via the Straits of Gibraltar. They may have superimposed themselves on other native races, creating the different varieties now found on the Peninsula.
At first, the bulls which were used for the bullfights were those which could not be used for work because of their untameable nature. When the value of the fighting bull exceeded that of an animal used for meat or for working, bulls began to be selected exclusively for the purpose of the spectacles. It was in the XVIIIth century that the raising of fighting bulls as we know them today first began.
For two centuries, the breeders of fighting bulls have been applying a system of selection which today seems normal. At one time it constituted a veritable innovation. In the raising of the fighting bull, consideration is given to lineage when choosing the bulls, and to individual characteristics and progeny when choosing the cows and studs.
Although it is often claimed that, with the arrival of the French dynasty of the Bourbons, the nobles lost interest in bulls, that is far from the truth. It is true that for reasons of Palace etiquette, the nobles stopped competing in the bullring, in accordance with the dictates of courtesy. Many nobles found it prudent to absent themselves from public festivals, and consequently from the main squares of the cities, as they had already done from the Court, and to withdraw to their Andalusian domains and their fields. From that time onwards, they began to take that interest in agriculture which they still continue to demonstrate, in the rural landscape and the beautiful agrarian architecture which, curiously, first took the name of cortijos and later, when the exploitation of the countryside had reached industrial proportions, were called haciendas. In that way, a new economic power was consolidated in the hands of the rural aristocracy.