Cheese Eating Danger Monkeys
The Americans hate the French because they think the French hate them. But for every Parisian chuckling into their chocolate breakfast sandwich as they give a tourist Yank oblique directions, there are five Frenchmen yearning for American approval. I spent August in the south of France surrounded by cowboys risking their Gallic necks while playing Course Camarguaise, one of the maddest sports on Earth.
The power of flight will certainly help you in this sport.
Now that traditional Spanish bullfighting has been outlawed, maybe it’s time for the Spanish to come over the Carmargue, and enjoy the weirder Course Camarguise. For a nation as menacingly bloodthirsty as the French (aristos, foie gras, the list of inhumanity is endless), it’s surprisingly generous of them to take bullfighting, the thinking man’s bloodsport, and make it safer for the bulls, (maybe the heightened danger for the “fighters” keeps them interested).
Every event starts with some awful traditional music and dance, it wouldn't be France without it.
The game is pretty simple: you take 14 fairly athletic men called Raseteurs, stick them together in a ring with a furious bull and watch as eight of them, four left handed, four right handed, attempt to snatch a rosette from the bull’s horns using a metal claw. So yes, it’s simple, but also stupid. Each rosette is worth a certain amount of money, but the longer it takes for the rosette to be snatched the more it will be worth as audience members throw money in and up the stakes.
Also on the pitch (in the pit), are six other guys who just run around trying to piss of the bull, shouting, screaming and throwing sand in it's face, usually they are former fighters who've grown tired of the injuries.
A Raseteur's career can be short as injuries are commonplace. The guy beneath, Michael Matray, is a former Camarguaise champion who also got horrifically injured two years ago. He was gored by a bull which broke six ribs, ruptured his spleen and crushed his pelvis, yet he still fights.
The event lasts 90 minutes and has a 15 minutes break, like a football match but with more blood and less money. Usually there are three bulls per half and the Raseteurs have up to 15 minutes to get all the rosettes otherwise they change bulls and the Rasteurs loose out on the cash. One Rasteur did exceptionally well and won €4,000 over the whole event, but most win nothing.
The stars of the Course Camarguaise are the bulls, though. Posters for upcoming events don't have the faces of successful Raseteurs, but photos glorifying the most successful bulls. The town centers don't have statues of famous Raseteurs, but of famous bulls who had long and glorious careers. The bulls that last the longest without loosing their rosettes are deemed a success and can look forward to retirement from the sport, shagging cows and eating grass in their own special field. Poor performers can look forward to life as a burger.
The guy in the cap just threw sand in a bulls face. Eek.
Sometimes the bull may get a little too excited and jump over the barrier, scattering the cowboys into their little safety huts where they keep the guns.
After the event is over everyone watches as some of the best cowboys in town ride down the main street trying to herd a bunch of bullocks without them trampling the crowd. I have no idea why they did this, but it was funny, especially when a man picked up his kid and played chicken with the bulls.
After that, people go back into the stadium and it's the kids turn to play with the bulls. The object of this health and safety nightmare is to fill up your bin with as much water as possible, whilst avoiding a very irate bull.
This bull took a real disliking to one kid and shoved a horn up his arse. Bad luck mate.