A small group of locals and anti-bullfighting activists have scuffled and exchanged insults at a centuries-old Spanish festival where for the first time the gory killing of a bull is banned.

Mounted police intervened Tuesday before hundreds of people ran alongside a lone bull in the town of Tordesillas 200 kilometers (120 miles) northwest of Madrid.

Men on horseback and on foot have traditionally chased the bull, spearing it in front of thousands of onlookers in what was one of Spain's goriest spectacles.

But amid increasing protests by animal rights activists, the regional government last year banned the killing of bulls at town festivals, though traditional bullfights were not affected.

Police ensured the bull was spared from anyone looking to defy the law as heavy rain cut short the event.