Camargue cattle at pasture
|Other names||Raço di bioù|
|Country of origin||Camargue region of France|
|Distribution||Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France|
|Weight||Male: 400 kg|
|Female: 250 kg|
|Horn status||Upcurved horns|
Bos (primigenius) taurus
The breed has existed for a long time in the region of Camargue : it is mentioned in writings from the Roman times. It has been used as a cross in the attempted genetic reconstruction of the extinct aurochs. Because it is raised in a feral state, isolated from other breeds, it is thought that the breed has changed little in two thousand years.
Some argue that the breed belongs to the species wild cattle that used to inhabit Asia and Southern Europe, and represents a last vestige of the Asian subspecies Bos taurus asiaticus. Others claim that Camargue cattle are a descendant of the aurochs that lived in the Quaternary, predominately in Africa, but also in Spain and perhaps France, by the name of Bos primigenius mauritanicus. The first theory is more widely accepted.
The breed also resembles a form that is driven around Solutré. The region of Bresse used to be marshland as Camargue is today, so it is possible that the cattle descended the Rhone, following the retreat of the sea.
The population in 2004 consisted of 2,000 heifers and 100 bulls.
The Camargue has a shiny black coat and lyre-shaped, up-swept horns. The mucous membranes are dark. The animal, while imposing in stature, is relatively light and therefore well-suited for bull-running. Males average 1.4 meters and females 1.2 meters in height, with weight ranging from 250 to 400 kg.
The Camargue is the only European breed that is still considered wild. It is considered a "fierce" breed, and is principally used for bull-fighting and for the course camarguaise; animals suitable neither for the bull-ring nor for breeding are sold for beef. The breed is also regarded as a tourist attraction. The meat of the Camargue breed, along with that of the Brava cattle breed and crosses between the two, can under strict conditions of pasturage and of zone and methods of production be marketed with the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) "Taureau de Camargue" certification of origin; animals that have appeared in the bull-ring are excluded. The meat is dark red and lean, reminiscent of wild game.
They are hardy animals thriving on the marshes where they live semi-wild, tended by the mounted herders called gardians who ride the famous Camargue horses which live in the same area. The cattle share the wetland environment with the horses, wild boar, and flamingoes. Cattle egrets live with the cattle. The Camargue cattle are the only European breed capable of living in brackish pastureland.
Camargue cattle are raised in operations called "manades," which are widespread in the marshy areas of Camargue. The herd is rounded up by cowboys on horseback, as many areas are inaccessible by car. Except for the branding of calves and the round-up done before sale, the only human contact is medical care and occasional supplementary feeding. Mothers calve unaided at pasture, and raise their calves almost entirely without human intervention.
- Etude de la race bovine: Raço di bioù Bureau des Ressources Génétiques (in French) "Study of cattle breeds: Raço di bioù" Accessed September 2011.
- A.O.C. Viande « Taureau de Camargue » Parc naturel régional de Camargue (in French) Accessed September 2011.
- Nacioun Gardians (Cultural association, Camargue, France)
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