Men on horseback have chased down a bull and speared it to death during the annual Toro de la Vega festival reviled by animal rights activists who turned out by the hundreds to protest the event.

Scuffles broke out Tuesday between activists and the festival's more numerous supporters before the bull, weighing more than half a ton, was released in the north central town of Tordesillas.

The activists also staged a sit-down protest but scattered along with festival supporters when the bull was released and headed toward them before being driven to a field and speared.

The bull-spearing event has been held for centuries and is defended by supporters as an important historical tradition.

The person credited with killing the bull gets a medal.