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Bullfighting traditions

A major bullfighting event in the South of France, the Course Camarguaise has its roots in Crete antiquity. It is the “modern” expression of secular games in which young Cretans would prove their virility and masculinity by catching wild bulls. Sometimes this show of force ended with a sacrifice to the gods.


Worship of the bull has been part of the Rhône delta and its branches’ territories since Antiquity. The Camargue bulls with horns in the shape of the lyre is smaller than its Spanish cousin, full of life and the main actor in the devotion and passion which bring the people of the region to life. Everything relates back to the bull and many events begin or end with an abrivado*, encierro* or course libre (running through the streets).


The bull games, which used to take place in the farmhouse courtyard and now take place in the arenas, are the living expression of our region’s identity brimming with heartfelt emotions and feelings that we would like you to share with us.


The oldest account of the Course Camarguaise dates back to 1402 in Arles in honour of Louis II, Count of Anjou and father of King René.

The bullfighting game is at the root of the event and involved clashes with all sorts of animals (lions, dogs, bears etc.) and farm hands to fight and play with the bull. Towards the end of the 19th century, these games were deemed violent and became a joist between man and beast with the aim of the game being to remove attributs (trophies) from between the bull’s horns.


Over time, the games were standardised and formalised. In our region we have the Course Camarguaise (without weapons) and Spain has the Corrida (sacrificial ritual).

Nowadays the Course Camarguaise is a full-fledged traditional regional event. It’s also been classed as a sport since the Fédération Française de la Course Camarguaise recognised it as such.

The aim of the game is to remove trophies placed between the bull’s horns according to the prescribed rules. The Course Camarguaise is held in a location with trained men and bulls following exact rules.


Source: Fédération Française de la Course Camarguaise "Petite initiation aux traditions camarguaises”



Location: arenas

Bullfight: 6 bulls each fighting for 15 minutes

Time: afternoon



Before the bullfight: capelado* and raseteurs parade.

After the bullfight: sometimes a calf for the children and novice raseteurs followed by the bandido*

During the bullfight: 15 minutes for each bull

1- First long sounding of the trumpet to signal the bull’s exit

2- The bull, or “biou” as it is known in Provence, comes out of the bullpen and looks for "its camp", a place in the arenas where it can defend itself (usually in a corner)

The Presidency, opposite or above the bullpen (made up of a President and two assistants) ensure that the rules are respected, announce the names of the bulls, the herd and the prizes for each of the attributs collected.

During the competition between herds, the cocardier*sometimes wears a sash around its neck in the colours of the herd (not an attribut).

3- Second short sounding to invite the raseteurs* to provoke the bull.

4- The raset:

- the tourneur, a former raseteur uses gestures and his voice to attract the bull’s attention to get it in the right position and prepare a bullfight favourable to the raseteur.

- the raseteur starts the bullfight and sets the bull charging.

- the bull and raseteur cross paths, it’s the time of the raset when the raseteur uses his hook to remove the bull’s attributs* (first the rosette, then the tassels followed by the 1st and 2nd strings).

- the man runs to the barriers, The cocardier chases him to the barrier, hits it and is greeted by the overture from Carmen.

5- Third sounding: after its 15 minutes of bullfighting, the bull returns to its bullpen with or without its attributs.

If the bull refuses to go back into its bullpen then the simbeu* will come out, usually with the cocardier, and promptly accompany it back to the pen. If the bull doesn’t follow it then a herdsman can prompt it to by using his trident.



The bullfighting season starts in March and ends in November


Main bullfighting events:

La Royale: with the six best bulls from the same farm

Le concours de Manades: with bulls from several farms

La course de Taù: with uncastrated bulls

La course de vaches cocardières: with cows only

La Course de Protection: with young bulls and novice raseteurs


Mise en place du lien vers le calendrier officiel des courses camarguaises de la Fédération Française de la Course Camarguaise


GLOSSARY* (names in Provençal)

Attributs*: rosettes, tassels, strings and frontal (string tied behind the horns) to be removed during the bullfight.

Raset*: when the bull and the raseteur meet in the arena as the latter must literally have a close shave (raser in French) with the bull to remove its attributs.

Gardian*: herdsman for a herd of wild bulls or horses living in the Camargue.

Cocardier: Camargue bull which has proved itself and its bravery in combat.

Encocardement: the placing of the rosette on the bull.

Capelado*: raseteurs’ (competitors) parade and salute to the Presidency.

Simbeu*: lead bull of the herd with a bell around its neck. It is often the oldest.

Biou*: Camargue bull.

Abrivado*: releasing the bulls surrounded by the gardians into the village streets and the people have to separate them to be able to trap them. This usually happens before the bullfight itself.

Bandido*: similar to the abrivado but taking place after the bulls have left the arenas after the bullfight.

Encierro*: a show where the bulls are released into the village streets with barriers in place to keep them within a certain area.

Ferrade*: event during which the bull’s thigh is branded with the symbol of its herdsman.


Source: Fédération Française de la Course Camarguaise "Petite initiation aux traditions camarguaises"