Throughout the history of bullfighting there have been more than 530 professional bullfighters killed in the ring. These fatalities include a number of legendary matadors who sustained fatal injuries such as Joselito, Manolete and Paquirri. While medical care and safety measures have improved over time, the threat of being fatally gored remains an inherent part of bullfighting. Following the death of Yiyo in 1985 it was over 30 years before the next fatality. The most recent bullfighter to lose his life was the Basque matador Iván Fandiño in 2017.
Spanish Bullfighters Killed in the Ring Since 1920
Iván Fandiño (2017)
Iván Fandiño was a talented Spanish bullfighter born in 1980 in Orduña (Vizcaya). He came from a non-bullfighting family but became passionate about the sport as a teenager. Fandiño rose quickly through the bullfighting ranks as a novice in the early 2000s, winning accolades for his skilled capework.
He took his alternativa to become a professional matador in 2005 in Bilbao. Over the next decade, Fandiño established himself as one of Spain’s top bullfighters, triumphing in major ferias across the country. His brave, daring style made him a fan favorite.
At the peak of his career in his mid-30s, Fandiño was fatally gored on June 17th 2017 while fighting in the French town of Aire-sur-l’Adour. A bull named “Provechito” dealt the fatal blow, horribly goring Fandiño through his side and puncturing his heart and lung. He died soon after in the hospital.
Fandiño’s shocking death at just 36 years old stunned the bullfighting world. He was mourned as a great talent gone too soon. The Spanish matador was known for his courage and artistry in the ring, making his tragic end all the more devastating. Fandiño left behind a legacy as one of Spain’s most skilled bullfighters of his generation.
Víctor Barrio (2016)
Víctor Barrio Hernanz was a 29-year-old bullfighter from Grajera (Segovia). On July 9th 2016, he was fatally gored by a bull during the Feria del Ángel festival in Teruel (Aragón) which was being broadcast live on television when the tragedy occurred.
Barrio was fighting a 529kg bull named “Lorenzo”. The massive bull’s horns pierced Barrio’s chest multiple times, puncturing his lungs and thoracic aorta. He was rushed to the bullring’s infirmary but was pronounced dead shortly after arriving. It was the first time since 1985 that a bullfighter had been killed in the ring in Spain.
The goring death of the young Barrio sent shockwaves through Spain. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy paid tribute to the fallen bullfighter. In light of the tragedy, most of the other festival events planned in Teruel were cancelled.
Lorenzo, the bull that dealt the fatal blows, was also injured in the fight and later died. There was speculation that Lorenzo’s mother, Lorenza, would be killed as part of the controversial practice of eliminating the bloodline of “killer bulls.” However, it was later confirmed that Lorenza had already died of old age before her son’s fateful fight with Barrio.
José Cubero – “Yiyo” (1985)
José Cubero Sánchez, known as “Yiyo”, was a young bullfighter who died tragically at the age of 21 after being gored in the heart by a bull in 1985. Born in Bordeaux, France to immigrant parents in 1964, Yiyo was raised in Madrid and trained at the prestigious bullfighting school of Venta del Batán. He made his professional debut as a teenager in 1980 and quickly rose to fame, winning accolades like the Golden Shoe of Arnedo for best novice bullfighter that year.
Yiyo’s meteoritic career was cut short on August 30th 1985 when he substituted for an injured matador at a bullfight in Colmenar Viejo (Madrid). While fighting a bull named Burlero, Yiyo was gored through his armpit, with the bull’s horn piercing his heart and killing him instantly.
His shocking death at just 21 years old was mourned by fans and the bullfighting community alike. Yiyo was considered a rising talent and hopeful future star of the dangerous sport. A funeral attended by thousands was held in Madrid’s Las Ventas bullring, where Yiyo had twice achieved the prestigious “Puerta Grande” victory.
Yiyo’s brief but accomplished career and untimely demise made him legendary in Spain. He is honoured with sculptures in Colmenar Viejo and Las Ventas, and a bullfighting school was renamed after him.
Francisco Rivera Pérez – “Paquirri” (1984)
Francisco Rivera, better known as “Paquirri”, was a famous Spanish bullfighter born in 1948 in Zahara de los Atunes (Cádiz). He came from a bullfighting family – his father was a bullfighter and bred fighting bulls. Paquirri made his debut as a novice bullfighter in 1962 and took his alternativa to become a professional matador in 1966 in Barcelona.
Over his illustrious career, Paquirri triumphed in bullrings across Spain, most notably Las Ventas in Madrid where he exited through the prestigious “puerta grande” main gate six times. He was considered one of Spain’s greatest matadors of the 1960s and 70s.
Paquirri met a tragic end in 1984 when he was fatally gored by a bull named “Avispado” during a fight in Pozoblanco. The bull’s horn severely damaged his femoral artery and vein. Rushed to a nearby hospital, Paquirri died of massive blood loss. He was only 36 years old.
Paquirri’s shocking death was mourned throughout Spain. Thousands attended his funeral in Seville’s Maestranza bullring. He left behind a legacy as one of the most courageous and skilled matadors of his generation, cementing his legend in Spanish bullfighting history.
Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez – “Manolete” (1947)
Manolete was born Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez in 1917 in Córdoba, Spain. He came from a bullfighting family – his father was a bullfighter and his uncle was the famous Lagartijo. Manolete made his novice debut in 1933 and took his alternativa to become a professional matador in 1939 at age 21.
Manolete rose to become the preeminent bullfighter of the 1940s. He developed an elegant, vertical style and perfected fighting the bull head-on. Manolete triumphed in bullrings across Spain, becoming a hero of Spanish society. At his peak, he was considered the greatest matador in the world.
On August 28th 1947, Manolete suffered a fatal goring in Linares (Jaén) fighting a 495kg Miura bull named “Islero”. The bull’s horn pierced his right thigh, severing his femoral artery. Rushed to the hospital, Manolete died the next day from massive blood loss. He was only 30 years old.
Manolete’s death shocked Spain and made him a legend. Regarded as one of the greatest bullfighters ever, Manolete took the art of bullfighting to new heights. His courage, style and technique influenced generations of matadors and left an indelible mark on bullfighting history.
Manuel Granero (1922)
Manuel Granero was born in 1902 in Valencia and quickly gained recognition as a promising torero. he took his alternativa at La Real Maestranza de Sevilla in 1920 but his promising career soon ended in tragedy. On May 15th 1922, at just 20 years of age, he suffered a fatal goring during a bullfight in Madrid’s Las Ventas bullring. His untimely death is described by Ernest Hemingway in his bullfighting novel “Death in the Afternoon.”
José Gómez Ortega – “Joselito” (1920)
Better known as “Joselito”, José Gómez Ortega was born in 1895 in Gelves (Seville) into a family with a strong tradition in bullfighting. Known for his daring and innovative techniques in the bullring, Joselito quickly gained popularity and earned the nickname “Gallito” (Little Rooster). He became part of a famous rivalry with another prominent bullfighter, Juan Belmonte, which captivated the Spanish public and marked a significant period in the history of bullfighting.
Tragically, Joselito’s life was cut short on May 16th 1920 when he was fatally gored by a bull called “Bailador” during a bullfight in Talavera de la Reina. He is one of the most famous bullfighters killed in the ring. His death at the age of just 25 had a profound impact on the world of bullfighting, and he is remembered as one of the greatest matadors in history. Joselito’s legacy continues to influence the art of bullfighting and his contributions are recognized in the cultural history of Spain.