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Senor Mattolio:

When a bullfighter has a particularly good fight, and the crowd awards him (or her) the ears and the tail of the bull, what does he do with them? I can't imagine!

-- Dina McReynolds, Pasadena

We agree. What would someone do with a house full of old bull parts? But we'll start the answer with a correction. The crowd doesn't award the ears and tail, the judge does. Every bullfight has a presiding judge who acts as ringmaster and police officer and generally oversees the conduct and fitness of the bull, the fighter, the crowd, and any other miscellaneous persons in the arena. The judge has the power to disqualify a bull, fine a fighter, and bounce a rowdy fan.

At the end of a fight, if the judge feels the matador has dispatched the bull skillfully, he can award one ear, two ears, or both ears and the tail. If the matador agrees that he has fought a worthy animal well, he takes the award to a taxidermist, who preserves and mounts the parts on a plaque. Sometimes the matador will fling the ears to the crowd in the stands in a gesture of mock humility or if he feels the bull was just a routine animal and the award was undeserved. Occasionally, if the matador decides he didn't receive a big enough award, he'll fling the bull parts at the judge (a crowd-pleasing move), who will fine the matador five or ten dollars for the disrespect, and everyone goes home with his machismo intact.

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