For national security reasons, king Phillip II of Spain founded the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda in 1572, a government body dedicated to the handling and maintenance of the Spanish cavalry.
To this end, an equestrian training facility was built. One of the main exercised that the horses were made to do were dodging drills where real bulls where used as obstacles. Bullfighting was developed originally on horseback, details of this original style can still be found in modern bullfighting.
When the eighteenth century rolled around the figure of the “on foot” bullfighter took over and in particular, one family rose to prominence in this new discipline: the Romero’s.
For three generations the Romero family dominated the world of bullfighters. Don Pedro Romero (from 1754 to 1839) in particular stood out among the rest. Considered to be one of the all-time grates and the most representative bullfighter.
He retired after killing more than 5,000 bulls without receiving even a scratch. H was the prototypical bullfighter and achieved social recognition for his courage, skill, and aesthetic sense.
The rise in popularity of bullfighting led the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda to build the bullring, designed by Don José Martín de Aldehuela, the same architect that designed the spectacular New Bridge of Ronda, that spans the Tajo gorge.
The construction took six years and was inaugurated in 1785 with a bullfight in which Pedro Romero and Pepe Illo performed.
Then in the twentieth century, the second dynasty of Ronda bullfighters, the Ordóñez, rose to fame. Cayetano Ordóñez and his son Antonio Ordóñez captivated the imagination of a nation, by their way of conceiving bullfighting.
They even attracted the attention of such illustrious characters as Orson Wells and Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway actually based his novel, Death in the afternoon, on Antonio Ordoñez and Orson Wells ashes are actually buried on the Ordoñez estate in Ronda.
It was precisely Antonio Ordóñez who, in 1954, created the world-famous Goya bullfight style, where the esthetics and clothing take us back to the time of the great painter Francisco de Goya y Lucientes.