While in Arles we took a little side trip to a national park in the Camargue. It was called Reserve Naturelle des Marais du Vigueirat.
While we waited for the tour to begin a local fox turned up and did a little trot around the picnic tables, no doubt looking for some tasty scraps to fall in his direction.
Soon our vehicle arrived…a cart drawn by 2 beautiful horses.
…and we were off on our little adventure.
The Camargue landscape is windswept and marshy.
The marshlands are teeming with wildlife. We saw lots of birds…egrets, swans and in the distance, a pair of storks in their nest with babies. The photo is a bit fuzzy, but it was really windy and the trees in front kept blowing in front of the nest.
The area is famous for its bull breeding and the lovely horses used by the farmers who work on the “Manades”.
The small Camargue horse is the cowherd’s companion and an indispensable means of transport in these marshy lands. The animal is very well adapted to the environment. It is not very tall, measuring only 13-14 hands. Its head is large with a straight forehead, the belly round and the legs sturdy with broad hooves.
We saw some beautiful babies with their protective mothers.
The horse is present at all the great folklore parades, mounted by riders dressed in traditional costume.
The Camargue cattle is also a small sturdy breed. From the 15th century this robust animal was used to pull the plough. In the 19th century the popularity of bull fighting led to the first cross breeding with pure bred Spanish Bulls.
The defenders of the pure breed raise their cattle for the Provencal bullfight, which has become very popular. The razeteurs, dressed all in white, must pluck a cockade held on the animal’s forehead by a string passed around the horns. This seems a lot less bloodthirsty than the other type of bullfighting.
We saw a different type of bull on the way out.
Our guide didn’t speak English and our French is very poor, so we didn’t understand much of what was being said, but it was great fun anyway. I have always been very curious about the Camargue area and this was a delightful way to see it in its natural state.