The job of bullfighter can encompass two types of work. In the U.S. the term is associated with a job also known as "rodeo clown" which involves controlling the bulls which rodeo cowboys attempt to ride, for example after a cowboy has fallen. In countries such as Spain and Mexico the term is associated with a torero, who takes part in displays fighting bulls with weapons. The lead torero at an exhibition is known as a "matador de toros", shortened in English to matador.
Rodeo bullfighters are self-employed and paid for each day they work; a job can involve working several days at a particular event. Pay ranges from $150 to $1,000 per day. A CNN report found three bullfighters who worked regularly made around $150,000 a year. A USA Today report estimates 300 men work in the profession, but only around 30 make a full-time living.
Rodeo bullfighters, as self-employed workers, are responsible for costs such as travel, accommodation and food while at work. The job does not carry healthcare benefits, meaning bullfighters must either find health insurance or be covered under a spouse or partner's policy. Because they are paid per appearance, bullfighters do not make money while unable to work through injury.
The amount a torero earns can vary immensely in the same way as a sportsman or music performer. Unlike traditional sports, bullfighting does not have records of wins and losses, though matadors usually don't have more than one loss! Earnings are therefore more to do with popularity with the ticket-buying crowd than the number of bulls defeated.
The most successful matadors, who achieve stardom, can earn as much as $75,000 for each appearance. A leading Spanish torero in 2009 asked for 400,000 euros, equivalent to more than $500,000 for a single appearance. Less successful or experienced toreros who perform in smaller venues may not earn enough to cover their costs.
A torero has many costs. These include renting or buying his uniform and equipment, paying for those who assist him and, for those who are not established stars, paying a fee for the right to fight a bull. This can total around 4,000 to 5,000 Euros a fight, equivalent to $5,500 to $7,000. While a new torero will have to pay these costs himself, more experienced and popular toreros will be able to cover these costs through sponsorship.
- USA Today; No Room For Clowning In These Rings; Michael Hiestand; May 20, 2005
- Sports Illustrated; Shootin' the Bull With Bullfighters; Rick Reilly; January 17, 2007
- Daily Telegraph; Top Spanish Matador Falls Victim as Bullfighting Beset by Economic Woes; Fiona Govan; April 2, 2009
- La extranjera en Extremadura; A Bullfighter's Dream; Laura Parkinson; May 27, 2011
- ESPN; Haunted By The Horns; Wright Thompson