From spring through to autumn, on the golden sand of Arles' arena and in each Camargue village, an impassioned and knowledgeable crowd is gathered. Razeteurs (Camargue bullfighters) come head-to-head with Camargue bulls in this chivalrous game that requires such values as loyalty and valour from both Man and beast.
Skill and agility, along with a mutual re-spect, are key to the Camargue bullfight.
Unlike with corridas (Spanish bullfights) which show the matador's name in big letters, post-ers publicising the course Camarguaise puts the bull's name before that of the razeteur. The name of the manade (farm) from which the bull comes is also given. The true star of the show is really the bull! From fight to fight, his qualities bring him glory and make him a sought-after animal, guaranteeing some very action-packed afternoons!
As for the razeteurs, they are just support acts, their fame being based on the reputation of the bull that they are facing. No blood is spilled in the Camargue bullfight; the Camargue bull does not come to kill, unlike his Spanish cousin! When this bull kills, which unfortunately can happen, his name is scratched from all lists!
The Cocarde d'Or in Arles
Women of Arles wearing traditional Provençal costume in the arena of Arles
Raseteurs and running of the bulls in an arena in the Camargue
A Pena in the arena of Arles
Raseteur and the Course Camarguaise, bloodless event in which the man (raseteur) tries to snatch a rosette from the bull's head
Winner of the Cocarde d'Or in Arles
It is around the age of three that a bull is at the peak of his "training" and knows his "profession” well. This is the one that that breeder saves for the end of the show, allowing the younger and less experienced bulls to go first so as to learn how to avoid the traps set by the razeteurs. It is this which gives the fight its crescendo intensity and helps to recognise future "hopefuls", be they bulls or razeteurs.
The clash of Man and beast in the ring requires much cunning from both parties. The organis-ers coordinate six bulls for one afternoon. The bulls take turns to enter the ring for a few minutes; just enough time to contend with several skilled and energetic razeteurs.
The razeteurs compete against one another to remove, as quickly as possible, the objects placed between the bull's horns. These are strings, tassels and a cockade which each earn the razeteur a cash prize upon removing it.
But, before cutting and removing each of the objects with his four-bladed hook, he must first tire the bull, which, with good strong legs, often chases the razeteurs right up to the barrier. This results in the razeteurs throwing themselves several feet in the air over the barriers in order to escape the sharp and powerful horns. Sometimes, the particularly agile bulls will also jump over the barriers, making the event even more dramatic and emotional, especially for those lucky specta-tors in the first row!
At the end of each round to signify the end of combat, the famous aria from the opera Car-men is played.
Every year, the "golden rosette" in the Arles arena gathers the elite of the course Camar-guaise. At the end of this prestigious after-noon, the highly coveted rosette is awarded, honouring the work of the breeder and recog-nising the bravery of the best razeteur of the year. This razeteur, in addition to receiving the praise of the tradition's professionals and the people of Arles, is allowed to kiss the always beautiful Queen of Arles.