THE rocket fires, the gates open and the brave runners begin their adrenaline-fuelled sprint, knowing one slip could mean a brutal goring.

Or actually just a bump from behind…if you are in the town of Mataelpino.

The Madrid town has introduced an unusual style of bull run including a ball rather than a bull.

Now the campaign group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) is urging other towns across Spain to do the same, and swap bulls for balls.

The comical idea of racing away downhill from a giant ball was originally introduced in the town four years ago as a cost-cutting exercise during the crisis.

But it has now received widespread attention, and Peta has offered to provide similar balls to any other mayor tempted by the running of the balls.

And for the hardy daredevils scoffing at replacing half tonne bulls with polystyrene balls, several runners still ended up in hospital last year after suffering a ‘strong wallop’.

Either way, the town hall insists that it has no intention of dropping its annual bull run, which has taken place for over 100 years.