Bull Leaping

Bull-leaping is a peculiar, well-documented Minoan sport, well-studied by scholars specialized in Minoan studies. J.C.Younger has studied a sample of fifty-four bull-leaping scenes and classified them on the basis of three different jumping techniques. In Technique I, the athlete seized from the front the horns of the galloping bull, flipped over his head, landed onto its back, and then flipped over the rear of the bull on the ground. In Technique II, the athlete jumped preferably from an elevated position over the head of the bull, landed on his hands on the back of the bull and then flipped backwards and landed on his feet behind the bull. In Technique III, the leaper is depicted in a single pose above the rear of the bull, probably after having approached the bull from the side. Perhaps the latter technique is a non-realistic stance entailed by the needs of sealstone iconography. The famous frescoe from Knossos (ca. mid. 15th century BC) seems to be a combination of the first two techniques.

Performers of bull-leaping are often characterized as noblemen, on the basis of their decoration and coiffure. Perhaps bull-leaping was taking place in the large central courtyards of the Minoan palaces, or in specially fenced enclosures nearby, as in Malia where there is a specially prepared ground found to the northwest.