Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Course landaise, spectacular cow jumping

Not only Americans love rodeo games of various kinds, the French too! In my region Landes the culture of tauromachie is very strong. The bulls and cows participate in different ways during the village festivals, including corrida like in Spain, course landaise and the game toropiscine. I’ll start by explaining the course landaise, a mix between show and sport, with a total respect for the animals involved.

In course landaise a man meets a cow (of the fierce corrida breed) in a sand covered closed arena. He calls and whistles to catch her attention and triggers an attack. When she’s running at him, he should wait until the last possible moment and move to the side to avoid her OR jump above her in a predefined figure. The cows are not hurt in any way and the best cows participate for over ten years – this has nothing to do with the cruelty of the corrida!

When you see how fast and aggressive these cows are, you cannot help admiring the men that stand alone in front of them. They are not as heavy as the male bulls, but a lot faster! And the toreador has at least a red piece of cloth to distract the bull, while the men in front of the cows have nothing.

Course landaise is an old tradition in Landes. Already in 1457 there were cows and bulls running in the streets in Saint-Sever. Initially the streets or a place were shut off before the cows entered, but at the end of the 18hundreds, the streets were abandoned in favour of built up arenas. It was also at that time the participants adopted their clothing of today, white trousers and a coloured bolero decorated with gold or silver glitter.

It remains the main attraction at the 450 village festivals that take place every year in Landes. I love the joyous atmosphere and the electricity in the air. After all, sometimes a participant is badly injured… every moment the danger is real.

On the photos you see a rope attached to the cow's horns. It is a security measure and also used to position the cow.  Photos by François Quillacq

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