Visiting some Gascons in the Pyrénées

By ‘Gascon’ I mean the cow, la Gasconne, the cow of the Ariège.

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The old name for this breed was Gasconne muqueuses noires, which means with black mucus membranes e.g. black around the eyes and nose. They joined the breed with the Gasconne Auréolée from the Gers a few decades back to make the Gascon, but then they split the breeds back up again. Like our Salers, Gascons are mountain cows but from a different mountain range; these girls are from the Pyrenees at the France/Spanish border. 

This crew are using a cornadis, which seems to be the standard for newer farm buildings.

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Back over a year ago I was looking at Gascons as a potential breed for us. They are rustic, hardy mountain cows that do well on grass and marble better than the standard Blonde or Limousine. Plus they are cute.

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In all I visited six different farms with Gascon cows. Every one kept them inside for winter, even the couple of farms that were out of the mountains and down in the plains. I have seen Gascons outside in the cold Ariège in winter so they are keeping them inside for reasons of worker ease or production performance rather than any lack of tolerance in the cow breed.

This herd of heifers is in stabulation libre, where they can run around a small pen for the winter. Straw is thrown in to keed the bedding clean.

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Although at the same farm the mother cows are chained for the winter. A lot of farmers like using the chains since they can get the cows accustomed to human closeness.

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The calves get chained near their mothers and brought out to feed twice a day. This is also a system they use for veau sous la mère, the white veal, although they usually have a spare milk cow to provide extra milk for the growing lad.

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A Gascon bull showing the fine condition of his rump. And yes, French farmers still use berets.

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Gascon bulls can get very dark.

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The bull below was at a different farm. The farmer was very proud of this bull and the Groupe Gascon guy thought he was special, too. Not being au fait with Gascons I can’t tell a bad one from a good one, but this bull is pretty well muscled with a long back but I’m a little wary about the arch in it.

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There’s always one cow who wants to sniff the camera to see if it is made of lucerne.

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This farm was in a mountain valley. Half way up the hillside was another village. It looks cold. 

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And deep in the Pyrenees this farm has a Border Collie with mismatched eyes. This is a very successful dog breed.

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When the houses down here have roofs made of slate, you know it snows a lot.

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7 responses to “Visiting some Gascons in the Pyrénées

  1. great photos,I would not like to be in the crew tying the chains for the first time but then I suppose the calves being chained young makes a difference

  2. They are truly beautiful cows! They have a very delicate, deer-like look about their faces with the black eyes, nose, and mouth. Well, except for the bull! Nothing delicate about him, unless, as you say, it’s his back. :)

  3. Curious, as you get closer to the mountains you find houses with steeper pitched roofs. On the older houses these roofs are made of slate. It became a sign for us – as we found villages with slate roofs we figured they must have a fair bit of snow to justify the investment.

  4. Gorgeous cows and scenery! I do my house cow’s calf the same, twice a day nursing grows a great calf, and allows us control of the milk in addition to having a well mannered calf to handle.

    Thanks for the tour :)

  5. Gorgeous cows and scenery! We do our house cow’s calf the same – twice a day nursing, which gives us control of the milk, grows a great calf, and makes us halter train and teach the calf manners.

    Thanks for the tour!

  6. Your free range cows look so much happier than these poor things that have to be chained up all winter…how are they allowed to exercise and if not, doesn’t that make them flabby…like us? And the veal calves that have to be chained and confined?? :( That’s one of the reasons I have never eaten veal!

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