Madrid: Half-tonne fighting bulls skewered or trampled all three matadors in an extraordinary upset at Madrid's prestigious Las Ventas bullring, forcing the entire spectacle to be cancelled.
For the first time in 35 years, the San Isidro festival, which opens the bull-fighting season in Spain, had to be suspended late Tuesday because all the matadors had been injured.
"Drama in Las Ventas" ran the front page headline of conservative daily ABC over a full-page photograph of a huge bull plunging its right horn into the side of the most seriously injured matador, David Mora, before he fell to the ground.
Spanish media devoted broad coverage to the bloody turning of the tables in Las Ventas, reputed to be the most important bullring in the world.
"The festival had to be suspended .. because of the gorings suffered by the three matadors," said a statement issued by the Las Ventas bullring.
"In the 68-year history of San Isidro, two bullfights have been suspended for gorings of matadors, both in 1979," it said.
The first bull on the programme, a black, 532-kilogramme (1,172-pound) animal named Deslio, knocked over Mora during a pass as his yellow-and-pink cape swirled in the wind.
Mora tumbled to the sand beneath his cloak but the bull immediately returned to its prey, head down, ramming its horn deep into his leg and tossing him over repeatedly.
- 'Horrific, shocking, chilling' -
"The somersault was horrific, shocking, chilling, impossible for the human eye to witness yet evident to the mind," wrote Antonio Lorca, bullfighting correspondent for the leading daily, El Pais.
Mora suffered two gorings including a 30-centimetre (one-foot) gash in the thigh and another in the armpit, a medical report from the bullring said.
Later, the bullring's operating surgeon Maximo Garcia Padros reportedly said Mora had required a blood transfusion during a two-hour operation.
"The goring in the femoral vein placed his life in danger. If you don't act it empties like an open tap. But that's why we are here," he told bullfighting site mundotoro.com.
The second matador, Antonio Nazare, appeared before the shocked audience to finish off the animal with the sword.
Nazare then faced his own opponent, however, a 537-kilogramme (1,184-pound) brown bull named Feten. The animal dragged the matador along the sand, injuring his knee and forcing him to seek treatment in the bullring hospital, the medical report showed.
Finally, the third matador, Saul Jimenez Fortes, entered the ring to fight the same bull. The animal skewered him in the right leg and the pelvis, leaving three 10-centimetre (four-inch) deep injuries, the bullring doctor said. Fortes managed to kill the beast before he, too, sought medical treatment.
In a Spanish bullfight, three matadors spar with a total of six bulls -- two each -- before putting the animals to the sword. With all three fighters out of action at Las Ventas, the rest of the event was called off.
Bullfighting has been on the decline for years in Spain, with a 2010 survey in El Pais showing 60 percent of respondents opposed the practice.
Barcelona's ring held its final bullfight in September 2011 after the Catalonia region banned bullfighting, the second Spanish region to do so after the Canary Islands.