Padilla slipped and fell in the sand after placing banderillas in the bull and the animal took revenge by piercing him through the jaw. The horn emerged through Padilla's left eye socket.
One of Spain's most popular matadors, Juan Jose Padilla, was gored through the head by a bull during a bullfight in Zaragoza on Friday in a grisly incident highlighting the danger of the traditional spectacle at a troubled time in its history.
Padilla slipped and fell in the sand after placing banderillas, or barbed sticks, in the bull and the animal took revenge by piercing him through the jaw. The horn emerged through Padilla's left eye socket.
He was helped out of the ring after the split-second incident with his face a bloody mess and saying "I can't see, I can't see," according to footage on Spanish TV channel Canal+ Toros.
Doctors initially feared the wound might be fatal but the bullring's doctor, Antonio Val-Carreres, quoted by El Pais newspaper, said later that Padilla was in serious condition and was being operated on by a team of specialists at Zaragoza's Miguel Servet hospital.
Padilla, a 38-year-old native of Jerez, has been in the top ranks of Spain's bullfighters for many years and is admired for
his courage and willingness to face the toughest bulls.
The goring occurred at one of the final bull festivals of a season that saw the spectacle come under increasing pressure from anti-bullfight activists and financial difficulties brought on by dwindling public interest, exacerbated by Spain's economic crisis.
Opponents of the bullfight say it is a barbaric ritual which has no place in a modern society. Supporters say it is a unique art form which epitomises Spanish culture.
The Catalonia region has banned the bullfight from next year and 20,000 fans packed Barcelona's Monumental bullring on Sept. 26 to see the last corrida to be held there as opponents demonstrated outside.
Although matadors regularly are hurt, the last two fatalities of senior matadors were those of Francisco Rivera Paquirri in 1984 and Jose Cubero Sanchez "El Yiyo" in 1985.
Those events triggered national mourning and led to a resurgence of interest in the bullfight. The six bulls fought at each corrida inevitably are killed.
Marques, the bull from the Ana Romero ranch which gored Padilla, was put to the sword by the senior matador on the bill, Miguel Abellan, who despatched it with tears streaming down his face.