So, let's talk for a second about Bullfights.
I can not excuse anyone for enjoying them for a second. They are terribly cruel and bloody, and if it was up to me, I would say poo-poo to your cultural history. The fight is rigged and the bull never wins. Torturing and brutally killing an animal for the sake of entertainment is probably the most barbaric form of expression Western society has decided to keep on with.
They still have these terrible events in Spain, Mexico, Portugal and yes, in France. In Spain, there is even a special kind of surgeon trained to deal with wounds that result in goring. Seriously.
But, saying that...in France, they have a from of non-lethal bullfighting called Course Camarguaise. At the end of the day, the bulls get to go home and go back to running free around the marshes of the Camargue. Remember, I was there a couple years ago? It's the marshy area around where the Rhone river empties out into the Mediterranean. Beautiful white horses, cowboy culture, pink flamingos, wild boars, vicious daytime mosquitoes, isolated beaches. It's an amazing place, and it might be one of my favorite memories of France, along with all the peaches, nectarines, cherries, and melons I couldn't stop eating that week.
The Camargue is also home to the big, beautiful black AOC Camargue Bulls.
This was about as close as I got to one.
It was terrifying.
They spend their lives running free on the marshland. Not a bad life. Most of them are eventually eaten, but the ones of a certain temperament get sent to the bullring.
Anyway. I wouldn't even think about supporting an honest-to-goodness bullfight. However, we headed to Arles to see a Course Camarguaise- the French "bloodless bullfight". Or, bloodless for the bull anyway. The day we saw it, there was no injuries (except pride perhaps).
Basically, you have a group of young, lithe handsome men wearing tight white clothes. One man will try to distract the bull by waving and shouting, while another guy will run up to the bull and try to grab a small ribbon tied around his horn, and then dash out of the arena, doing a flying leap to safety. If he gets a ribbon, he scores a point. There are 6 rounds in a game, with a brand new fresh bull introduced every 15 minutes. When the music played to signify the end of the round, the bull would head right back to the chute where he came from. Totally not the first rodeo they have been in.
It was tense, and quite a bit of fun to watch. While the bull seemed a little perplexed at times, it didn't seem particularly tormented. If the bull got up too much speed, everyone would leap out to safety. If they got him on the short side of the area, the game would begin. If the crowd thought the men were being too slow to approach or a little to quick to jump out or the arena, the crowd was sure to put them in their place. Plus, being in Arles, the game was held in a 2000 year old amphitheater, built by the Romans. People probably cheered on the throwing of the Christians to the Lions at some point in this same spot.
Let the pictures begin:
Oh, incidentally, the blood spots you see on the arena floor...they were from the "real" bullfight from the night before. Sigh.
This was perhaps the one event I've been to where I didn't have the urge to be any closer.
Not only would the bull paw the earth, kicking up clouds of dirt mixing with his urine, those horns were easily able to cross the barricade.
This one bull in particular was more than happy to try to launch himself over.
While the big bulls were terrifying, the small ones were agile and even intense.
Oh, and yes, there is a school for this. And yes, women can enroll.
Sorry about SO MANY PICTURES. I honestly just couldn't help myself. This was so much fun to shoot.