Camargue is a unique area in southern France in which modern cowboys herd Camargue cattle with the beautiful breed called the Camargue horse. The name has come to represent the region, the horse and the cattle. The word equitation represents the style of riding and living associated with these horses.
There is much mystery surrounded the origins of the wild Camargue horses, and the guardians who ride them. It is thought that the horses descended from ancient times and has continued to thrive in the area of Southern France where they were developed. Some believe that the Camargue is a descendent of a prehistoric horse dating all the way back to the Paleolethic period. From the prehistoric origins of the horse to the ancient traditions of the guardians, Camargue horses have inspired wonder for centuries.
The Camargue Region
Carmague is located in the south of France near the mouth of the Rhône River. The area is full of wetlands and salt marshes. There are large lagoons in the area, as well as evaporating marshes to collect salt. Camargue is full of tiny towns and villages. Mostly everyone in the region is a Guardian, as there is no other form of livelihood in the region other than cultivation of cattle and sheep.
Camargue horses are a small breed of horse, but are incredibly hardy. The horses are able to withstand the harsh winters and hot summers in Camargue. When Camargue horses are born, they are a black or dark brown color. When the horses become adults, they are covered in white hair. Their official color classification is gray because they are not born with white hair, but all adult horses have the appearance of white hair and white manes.
Camargue horses live semi-wildly in the hills of Camargue. They are ridden at times by the guardians and used for herding the Camargue bulls. Most of the time, the horses live wild and free in small herds. The horses are protected by the government of France. Camargue horses are never kept in a stable or other domesticated circumstance.
Camargue horses stand between 13 and 14hh. They have a even, sweet temperament which allows them to be ridden despite the great deal of freedom they live in. Their breeding is not closely managed. Once a year, the horses are rounded up for branding and so that the guardians can track any new foals. The horses breed in the wild.
Camargue horses choose to live in small herds. Oftentimes, the head male will force out the other young males in the herd. Once those males mature, they seek out mares for their own herd and begin breeding.
The majestic white horses are able to withstand rough terrain and shortages of food. The horses eat ground vegetation, leafy grasses, herbs and plants. Because they are not domesticated, they forage for their own food in the marshlands.
Evolution has provided the horses with special teeth to help them eat food from their rough diets. The incisors are cutting teeth while the premolars are the grinding teeth. The horses also have wide hooves for balance and sturdy footing.
The guardians proudly carry on an ancient lifestyle in Camargue. The guardians live in small cottages with no windows called cabanes. Cabanes are made with stucco and a thatched roof. The tiny huts are decorated with the horns of a bull that traditionally wards off evil spirits. Many guardians have a large pole outside of the hut. The guardian will climb up the pole to look out across the marshes at the herds.
The guardians are responsible for rounding the Camargue horses as well as the Camargue bulls. The horses are rounded up annually to track the breeding and herds. Though the horses live wildly, the breeding is monitored. The Camargue is something of a friend and companion to the guardian.
The guardians use the Camargue horses to round the Camargue bulls. The Camargue bulls, like the horses, are a breed smaller than average. In direct contrast to the horses, the bulls are jet black. The Camargue bulls are used in bullfighting rings across Europe. They are native to the Camargue region and graze in the same lands as the horses. Camargue bulls are known to be fierce and resilient. The guardians chase down the bulls and export them to other countries. Sometimes, the guardians will tie ribbons around the horns of the bull, then have contests to cut off the ribbons. The guardians have incredibly riding skill.
Guardians are modern cowboys in a world where most ancient traditions are only observed in celebrations, rather than as a lifestyle. The guardians stand proud, with black hats and tridents, atop glowing Camargue horses as a representation of the past as well as the present. The tridents are use as a tool in herding and have a sharp point in the middle with three prongs.
In order to preserve the unique way of life in Camargue, tourism is limited in this area. The traditions are age-old and many are preserved from the general public. In this way, the land of Camargue and all of its inhabitants are protected from the modern world. Many of the roads do not allow vehicles, so tourists must visit Camargue on bike or on a horse tour featuring the beautiful Camargue horse.
Camargue horses are accustomed to living in salt water. They are, in fact, often called horses of the sea. The horses enjoy water and thrive in it. Many picturesque images of horses in water come from the Camargue region. Camargue is a place of wonder, where fierce bulls, beautiful horses and stoic guardians all co-exist together. The guardians carry on a style of equitation unique only to that region and unknown to the modern world. The Camargue region has become and excellent place to study the behavior of semi-wild horses and the traditions of ancient equitation. Any person who is fortunate enough to see the guardians, Camargue horses and Camargue bulls can watch the three interact in wonder.