Bullfighting is not just the sport of big bulls -- it also brings in big business, though not everyone involved is getting rich. In fact, some insist that the only way bullfighting stays alive is through government subsidies.
The top matadors in Spain are treated and paid like rock stars, earning more than $100,000 per bullfight and often performing 30 to 40 times a year [source: Lowe]. Coupled with endorsement deals and the perks that come with fame, the cream of the matador crop can make considerable money. After fighting in Spain, they'll often continue through the seasons in Mexico, Peru and other parts of Latin America.
While most insiders don't make the kind of money top matadors make, bullfighting as an industry contributes to the economies of the countries where it is practiced in a number of ways. Future matadors pay to train at bullfighting schools. Specialized ranches breed bulls. Seamstresses fashion the ornate traje de luces by hand, often taking more than a month to make one at a cost of $2,000 to $3,000. And the staff at a large arena, such as Las Ventas in Madrid, numbers around 400, including 15 veterinary surgeons [source: Hartwig].
The downturn in the economy since 2008 coupled with bans on bullfighting in some areas of Spain and other parts of the world have meant that not as many people are making as much money off corridas as they used to. The number of bullfights dropped from about 1,000 in Spain in 2008 to about 800 in 2010 [source: Western Daily Press]. The decline is due in part to a sharp cut in previously government-subsidized bullfights in small towns that can no longer afford the subsidies.
Economic woes aren't the only thing that may be killing bullfighting. On the next page, we'll see how a growing and vocal animal rights movement has gotten bullfighting banned even in places where many thought it was entrenched forever.