Photographer has captured the art of bloodless Texas bullfighting for over a decade


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Since 2008, photographer Katie Hayes Luke has traveled to South Texas to document a bloodless bullfight at a ranch called La Querencia. It is illegal to kill the bull in the United States, so the bullfighters end the fight by grabbing a flower from the back of the bull to symbolize a clean kill. Arena owner Fred Renk, an 83-year-old former amateur bullfighter, has recruited young aspiring bullfighters from Mexico. Each season, young novilla women stole the show in their quest to become one of the few matadoras. One of them is Karla Santoyo from Aguascalientes, Mexico, who followed in her father’s footsteps by becoming a bullfighter at the age of 19. Fred retired in 2020 and his grandson was planning to take over, but there were no events during the pandemic.

/ Katie Hayes Luke

David Renk ties flowers to the back of the bull before a fight on February 13, 2011. To be considered a successful fight, the matador (a) must remove the flower from the back of the bull to symbolize a clean kill.

Lupita Lopez's jacket hangs outside Renk's home at La Querencia Ranch in South Texas on January 23, 2011.

/ Katie Hayes Luke

Lupita Lopez’s jacket hangs outside Renk’s home at La Querencia Ranch in South Texas on January 23, 2011.

Santa Maria bullring headliner Karla Santoyo says bullfighting is

/ Katie Hayes Luke

Karla Santoyo, headliner of the Santa Maria bullring, says bullfighting is “a bit complicated for a woman because it’s a man’s world.”

Fred Renk, not pictured, a former amateur bullfighter, recruits budding young bullfighters from Mexico to perform at show bullfights at his South Texas ranch called La Querencia.

/ Katie Hayes Luke

Fred Renk, not pictured, a former amateur bullfighter, recruits budding young bullfighters from Mexico to perform at show bullfights at his South Texas ranch called La Querencia.

Fred Renk, an 81-year-old former amateur bullfighter, recruits budding young bullfighters from Mexico to perform at show bullfights at his South Texas ranch called La Querencia.

/ Katie Hayes Luke

Fred Renk, an 81-year-old former amateur bullfighter, recruits budding young bullfighters from Mexico to perform at show bullfights at his South Texas ranch called La Querencia.

For Karla Santoyo's debut as a novillero at the age of 19 at the Santa Maria arena, her father, Paco Santoyo, passed on his traje de luces, the

/ Katie Hayes Luke

For Karla Santoyo’s debut as a novillero at the age of 19 at the Santa Maria arena, her father, Paco Santoyo, passed on his traje de luces, the “costume of lights” worn by bullfighters. She now has 7 years of experience.

Karla Santoyo confronts a bull in the Santa Maria bullring on July 2, 2016.

/ Katie Hayes Luke

Karla Santoyo confronts a bull in the Santa Maria bullring on July 2, 2016.

Spectators watch the matadors enter the arena on January 12, 2020.

/ Katie Hayes Luke

Spectators watch the matadors enter the arena on January 12, 2020.

Many matadors come from Mexico to make themselves known and gain experience.

/ Katie Hayes Luke

Many matadors come from Mexico to make themselves known and gain experience.

David Renk, son of Fred Renk, holds the ears and tail of a cow which is awarded to the matador (a) after a successful fight on February 13, 2011.

/ Katie Hayes Luke

David Renk, son of Fred Renk, holds the ears and tail of a cow which is awarded to the matador (a) after a successful fight on February 13, 2011.

The crowds, a mix of locals and Winter Texans, the snowbirds that migrate south during the colder months, flock to the Santa Maria Bullring to see the young aspiring bullfighters on February 16, 2016.

/ Katie Hayes Luke

The crowds, a mix of locals and Winter Texans, the snowbirds that migrate south during the colder months, flock to the Santa Maria Bullring to see the young aspiring bullfighters on February 16, 2016.

Matador Cayetano Delgado touches between the shoulders on the back of the bull to symbolize the end of the bullfight with a "to kill" January 12, 2020.

/ Katie Hayes Luke

Matador Cayetano Delgado touches between the shoulders on the back of the bull to symbolize the end of the bullfight with a “kill” on January 12, 2020.

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