France`s most important bullfighting arenas are in the southern cities of Nimes and Arles, however throughout the entire southern coast you will find bullfighting arenas, like the the arena in Le Grau du Roi. Bullfighting in France is unique in the fact that the Bull has the right not to fight. A more indigenous genre of bullfighting is widely common in the Provence and Languedoc areas, and is known alternately as “course libre” or “course camarguaise“. This is a bloodless spectacle (for the bulls) in which the objective is to snatch a rosette from the head of a young bull. They do not try to take the rosette with their bear hands but with a hook called raset or crochet. Once the raseteurs or more commonly known, the Matador has retrieved the Rosette, he gives it to a lucky young lady in the audience. The participants, begin training in their early teens against young bulls from the Camargue region of Provence before graduating to regular contests held principally in Arles and Nîmes but also in other Provençal and Languedoc towns and villages. Before the course, anencierro—a “running” of the bulls in the streets—takes place, in which young men compete to outrun the charging bulls. The course itself takes place in a small (often portable) arena erected in a town square. For a period of about 15–20 minutes. Afterwards, the bulls are herded back to their pen by gardians (Camarguais cowboys) in a bandido, amidst a great deal of ceremony. The stars of these spectacles are the bulls, who get top billing and stand to gain fame and statues in their honor, and lucrative product endorsement contracts.
Another type of French ‘bullfighting’ is the “course landaise”, in which cows are used instead of bulls. This is a competition between teams named cuadrillas, which belong to certain breeding estates. A cuadrilla is made up of a teneur de corde, an entraîneur, a sauteur, and six écarteurs. The cows are brought to the arena in crates and then taken out in order. The teneur de corde controls the dangling rope attached to the cow’s horns and the entraîneur positions the cow to face and attack the player. The écarteurs will try, at the last possible moment, to dodge around the cow and the sauteur will leap over it. Each team aims to complete a set of at least one hundred dodges and eight leaps. This is the main scheme of the “classic” form, the course landaise formelle. However, different rules may be applied in some competitions. For example, competitions for Coupe Jeannot Lafittau are arranged with cows without ropes.
Main bullrings in France:
- Le Grau du Roi
Bullfighting takes place in a bullring. A bullring is usually a large structure situated in the centre of a town or city which bears many similarities to a Roman Amphitheatre. The classic bullring is circular in style with steep tiered rows for standing all around. Certain arenas are surrounded by climbing rows of seats. The seats are priced differently according to the position of the sun during the show, normally in the afternoon. The hot sol, “sun”, is cheaper than the fresher sombra, “shade”.The open space forms the arena or ruedo, a field of densely packed crushed rock (albero) that is the stage for the bullfight. Also on the ground level, the central arena is surrounded by a staging area where the bullfighters prepare and take refuge, called the callejón (alley). The callejón is separated from the arena by a wall or other structure, usually made of wood and roughly 140 cm high. The partition wall has doors for the entrance and exit of the bull (puerta de los toriles) and human participants (puerta de cuadrilla), although the form, number, and placement of these doors will vary from one bullring to another. In regular places, the wall is pushed outwards leaving splits (burladero, from burlar: to evade, to dodge) that allow the bullfighters to go in the arena and to take refuge but are too narrow for the bull. The most famous bullrings in the world are Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid (Spain), widely regarded as the most prestigious one, La Maestranza in Seville (Spain) and Plaza de toros de Mexico in Mexico. The main bullrings are usually found in Spain, southern France and Portugal, and in former Spanish colonies in the New World:Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The bullring has a chapel where a matador can pray before the corrida, and where a priest can be found in case a sacrament is needed. The most relevant sacrament is now called “Anointing of the Sick”; it was formerly known as “Extreme Unction”, or the “Last Rites”.
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