“Courses landaises” are Gascony’s traditional cow competitions with deep roots in the region’s history.
They are a much milder form of bullfight, than the one of the neighboring Spain, using instead of bulls specially selected cows and more importantly with no animal killing or bloodshed (save for unfortunate rare accidents when the toreros are the injured part!).
During the middle ages – as early as 1289, as attested by documents in the Bayonne city archive – the young people of the villages of Gascony were running with the cows, bulls and oxes as the animals were driven through the narrow streets of the towns to the slaughterhouse.
This practice considered as pagan and anarchic was rebuked by the authorities and its participants were threatened even with excommunication by the Pope in 1567. It was all in vain, the passion of the people of the southwest France for this “sport” only grew and it represents nowadays an important part of the popular cultural heritage of the region.
Throughout the centuries the authorities, unable to stop the competitions, were forced to create the first rules of the game and to build the first arenas.
Some big changes occurred in the middle of the 19th century with the arrival in France of the Spanish bullfighting competitions. Fortunately these changes were limited to the import of Spanish fighting cows from the region of Salamanca, the introduction of a flamboyant outfit for the fighters, similar to the one of the Spanish toreros, and the arrival in the arenas during the competitions of the fanfare music played by “bandas”.
Nowadays “la course landaise” is recognized as a regional sport and its participants are highly trained athletes.
There are several forms of “course landaise” depending of the action of the toreros:
-“L’ecarteur” is the torero who avoids the charging cow at the last moment with a graceful movement of the body.
-“Le sauteur” avoids the charging animal by jumping above. This torero must be above all a skilled gymnast who can jump from a stand still position at least 1, 40 meters (5 ft) high.
-The “easiest” and the most common form of “course landaise” is the so called “intervache” where the players are just running and hiding behind special built panels in the face of the charging cow.
Hi, I am Carla. I am living and working in the beautiful city of Toulouse, France.
I like history, travel and... the southwest of France and try to share through this blog information about events that might be of interest to the travelers to this part of the world!