That’s A Lot Of Bull!

Do you know about the Course Camarguaise?  It’s not exactly bull fighting, although it does involve men and bulls getting together in a ring and doing macho stuff.  There’s even a special word for the machismo involving men and bulls, tauromachie, although it’s more often applied to real bull fighting.

Don’t these guys look like a nice, cleancut bunch?  All in pristine white, young, smiling, they look like the kind of guys you’d like to see your daughter go out with.  Except.

This is what they like to do for fun: everything possible to infuriate a bull by running in front of it

daring it to charge

and then jumping out of the way at the last possible minute.  As those scuff marks on the wall attest, the bulls often take a dim view of all this and demonstrate the sharpness of their horns by ramming them against the wooden planks, although you definitely get the idea that they would prefer to give a nice, sharp object lesson to the rapidly retreating parts of the pesky raseteurs.

It’s not all about the teasing, of course.  As you can see here, the bull’s horns are wrapped with various ribbons and tassels, and prizes go to the guys who are able to remove them from the horns without themselves getting removed from active duty.

There’s a special hook, called a crochet, that the raseteurs hold in one hand, and as soon as they’re within reach they try to hook the ribbon with the crochet.  I think it’s actually a bit harder than it sounds.  Although, as compared to Spanish-style bullfighting it’s a piece of cake, since after 15 minutes of fighting each bull goes back into the bull pen, presumably to have a huge drink or water and mutter bullish imprecations in the direction of those brats in white.

Because bulls do see white, and black, and probably not much else.  If you’ve ever wondered what a bull in the ring sees, this is it.  They don’t see a matador’s red cape, but they do see the raseteur’s traditional white costume, worn so that if there were ever the least drop of blood it would show up fearsomely.  But the idea is to have a bloodless sport, and for that reason the raseteurs leap over fences like nobody’s business.  They fairly fly through the air, often with delicate portions of their anatomy just inches from the bull’s outraged charge.

When someone does something especially brave, the loudspeaker plays a little burst of the toreador song from Carmen.  Yesterday it seemed to me that the bulls themselves deserved a couple of Carmen serenades too, since in addition to snorting and pawing the ground just as bulls should, a couple of them also leaped the fence with amazing grace and speed.  I have to admit that I was glad to be sitting three rows up, in the shade, wearing neither white nor black, and hopefully invisible to bulls.

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6 Comments on “That’s A Lot Of Bull!”

  1. Jim Says:

    I think it would be more interesting if, instead of having young men tease the bull, they had old men tease the bull. There would be a LOT more action that way!

  2. Dick Says:

    Nice article, but linguistically, tauromachie doesn’t have anything to do with machisme. The “machie” in tauromachie is from the Greek word for combat, while machisme is derived from the Latin word for masculine.

  3. Abra Says:

    Wow, that’s interesting Dick. Where did you find references for that? Not that I think anyone would argue that standing in front of a charging bull is anything less than the height of machismo!

  4. Dick Says:

    According to the Petit Larousse:

    tauromachie [toromaòi] nom féminin
    (gr. tauros , taureau et makhê , combat)
    Art de combattre les taureaux dans l’arène.

    machisme [matòism] ou [maòism] nom masculin
    (de macho)
    Idéologie et comportement fondés sur l’idée que l’homme doit dominer la femme et qu’il faut, en tout, faire primer de supposées vertus viriles.


    machisme [matòism] ou [maòism] nom masculin
    (de macho)
    Idéologie et comportement fondés sur l’idée que l’homme doit dominer la femme et qu’il faut, en tout, faire primer de supposées vertus viriles.

    Le Petit Larousse illustré 1999. © Larousse, 1998.

  5. Dick Says:

    Ooops! I meant to say,


    macho [matòo] adjectif et nom masculin
    (mot esp. ; du lat. masculus , mâle)
    Fam. Qui fait preuve de machisme; phallocrate.

    Le Petit Larousse illustré 1999. © Larousse, 1998.

  6. Wolfgang Says:

    I have been reading with great pleasure your experiences in France.

    Living relatively close by the french border 30 mins by car in the south of Germany we spend much time in France, be it Strassbourg or if more time the Provence or the atlantic coast from Little Brittany till the Aquitanian region.

    Your description of France with the little typical things of french daily life including the seasonal and regional variations with it, which sometimes is only understandable having spent some time in France, is a must to read.

    I thank you for your authentic and most enjoyable writing which brings back holiday memories and “feeds” the urge to spend as soon as possible the next holidays in France again.

    Merci Beaucoup

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