Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ganaderia de Buros, a passion for wild cows

Calm cows at Ganaderia de Buros

How on earth can cow farming be anything exciting, you wonder. But I'm not talking about the idle milk cows now, bred to be calm and obedient. I am talking about the fierce cows of the corrida race that you use in the course landaise competitions. These ones look a bit like our cows, but they have a quite different temper!

Course landaise is a living tradition with roots from the Medieval times. A course landaise display belongs to the permanent elements of any village festival in the region. It is a mixture of sport and show, where a man provocates a cow to attack, only to jump to the side at the very last moment. Or jump over the cow, in one of the predefined jumps. Many cows participate for tens of years and get more dangerous for every year, as they learn about human behaviour.. read more about when I saw a competition of  course landaise here.

These wild cows live in herds with a strong hierarchy. The bulls defy each other to define who the leader bull is. They all define themselves against the other members of the herd, so they are born with an instinct to define a territory and protect it. The female cows have a similar behaviour, but act a bit differently. Her instinct is more based on the protection of her babies, so she will not give up. She will continue attacking relentlessly - while a male bull will rather try to go away, admit he is beaten. This is the reason to use the cows instead of the bulls. They never give up.

A cow that enters an arena will attack instantly. The space is too small for her to accept anybody else. Have a look at the video and you will start understanding what it is all about. The music is lacking, but the jumps are spectacular!

Jean's grand grandfather Joseph

The Ganaderia de Buros history started with his grand grandfather, Joseph. He had a small farm but worked for the childless owner of a huge farm. Joseph inherited the 100 ha farm in 1890.  He built the Buros castle and expanded the propriety to over 2000 ha. Jean was born at the castle, but his share, after the double heritage splits, were 130 ha. He also got a rich family history, linked to the course landaise.

Jean Barrère himself

I was fifteen the first time I stood in front of an attacking cow, he says. Here it is like a manhood ritual to do it, at least once. But for me it was the beginning of a passion and a ten year career with course landaise competitions. A knee damage forced me to quit, but I still miss the adrenaline kick out of meeting such a wild and unpredictable animal. Today I will do an exceptional show, but in general I concentrate on the breeding.

The Buros castle
The Buros castle, where Jean was born. Today it is owned by a Dutch couple that has made an excellent hotel and restaurant there.

How to do an écart, a jump away from an attacking cow
Jean demonstrates how to feint a jump with one foot to one side, bring it back and turn your back against the cow.

To imitate an attacking cow, Jean uses his cow bike
A special bike with cow horns, to give an inkling of idea of what it feels like to be in front of an attacking cow. Like a cow, Jean can turn the wheel at the very last moment...

Bull and cows in front of the Buros castle
A bull and cows in front of the Buros castle

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