Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Course Camarguaise

A trip to the Camargue would not be complete without an evening in the arena viewing the course camarguaise. This local type of bull-fight pits man against beast in an athletic show of speed and agility. The bull is the protagonist. Taureaus are rated throughout the season based on their performances. Based on this ranking, they receive WWF-like billing when they enter the ring. Unlike in the Spanish Corrida, the Camarguaise bulls are not harmed during the course. The band of a dozen or so tourneur, on the other hand, are applauded most vigorously when on the receiving end of the bull's charge.


The primary objective of the game is to remove from the taureaus one of three object attached dangerously to their body. The ficelle strings tied around the bull horns are the most difficult to remove. Tourneurs must make strafing runs past the taureau attempting to cut loose the ficelle with a special claw-like device. When working as a team, they are most successful when running from either side of the cow in rapid succession.


However, the taureaus are smart and always unpredictable. The bull-fighters frequently must jump out of the ring to safety. Because of the height of the ring-side boards, a small step is provided about a foot off the ground. The form of the dive seems awkward and is only successful if the tourneur is able to catch the metal railing along the first row of spectators. Amateur bull-fighters are probably at greater risk to injury attempting this "jump for safety" than inside the ring with the bull.


We happened to attend one of the season finales. This meant that only the best taureaus were in action and the stakes were highest. As the course progresses, the men are offered increasing payouts for successfully removing the ficelle. The announcer rattles off a string of dollar amounts provided by sponsors. This auctioneer-like rattle is incredibly annoying and is only disrupted on the occasion of some near catastrophe in the ring. I would have preferred some ring-side advertising and the soundtrack from Carmen.

In the end one the taurneur was named league champion and the bulls were free to return to their grazing until next season.
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This work by Ken Maschke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.