I first hear of the Course Camarguaise in the Tourist office of Aigues Mortes, a 13th century walled town known for supplying 50% of France’s salt. In the restaurants inside the mile-long walls you can find brochettes de taureau, filet du taureau and boeuf a la gardian (a cowboy style stew). Basically, bull is on the menu at every venue in town.
That night I stay at one of the bull ranches of the Camargue, Manade des Baumelles. Some black bulls lazily graze in the afternoon sun while a few wild white horses meander through the marshy fields. Next to the house and the restaurant is a circular arena where the bulls train for the local games. These are not the traditional bull fights of Spain but still a test of agility and nerves for the competitors who must retrieve attributes (rosettes, tassels and strings) from the horns of the bulls.
6 bulls take part in each event, remaining in the arena for 15 minutes. The raseteurs (competitors), dressed in white, attempt to win prizes by taking possession of the attributes and are assisted by tourneurs (former, experienced raseteurs) who attract the attention of the bull. The main Courses are held between March and November so I won’t have the opportunity to see one but it only takes a little imagination to conjure up the excitement of such an event.