A matador who posted a photograph of himself holding his baby daughter in one arm while battling a bull with the other could face criminal prosecution for child neglect. The photograph posted on Instagram by Francisco Rivera Ordóñez attracted thousands of likes, but also widespread criticism, with many accusing him of putting the life of the five-month-old child in danger.

"This is the fifth generation of bullfighters in our family", he wrote in a caption by the image. On Tuesday (26 January), Andalucia's Child Protection Agency confirmed that it would be investigating the incident, announcing it will "gather information with a view to possibly taking action."

Among Rivera's critics was British comedian and animal rights campaigner Ricky Gervais, who retweeted the picture with the caption "I kinda fused animal and child abuse". He has subsequently deleted the tweet. However fellow bullfighters have expressed support for Riviera, and posted pictures of themselves holding their children in the ring in solidarity.

"What's the problem in showing our children a profession that we love and is filled with values?" asked bullfighter Manuel El Cordobés Díaz in a Tweet by a picture of himself holding his daughter in one arm and the red cape of the matador in the other.

"With my nephew, in solidarity with @Paquirri74 respect our life ... our values ..." wrote Alvaro Oliver.

Days after his second daughter, Carmen, was born, Rivera was seriously injured when he was gored by a bull in Huesca. Friends of Rivera said that the picture showed him celebrating his return to the ring with his daughter, El Pais reported.