White horses, bulls, pink flamingos, rice, salt, culture, and the economics of the Camargue region are all interconnected in this surreal geo-triangle in the south of France.
The Camargue region spreads over more than 360 square miles of pastureland and wetlands formed by the two branches of the River Rhône and the Mediterranean. The largest river delta in Europe, the Camargue is a thriving center of agriculture and tourism.
While the area appears to be a “natural” wilderness, it is, in fact, “manipulated” to maintain its sophisticated biodiversity. Most specifically, in the last century alone, enlightened promoters of the Camargue have demonstrated how the creative and sensitive management of water levels can create a productive environment for man and living creatures instead of a desolate, salty wasteland, good for nothing but the extraction of salt.
White Horses of the Camargue
The breed of “white horses” found in the Camargue is believed to have appeared in the Paleozoic era (Solutre horses). They are thought by some to have come from along the Silk Roads, the Steppe grasslands of Eurasia that run from modern Hungary to Mongolia.
Nomad horseback riders from the Steppe are typified by Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongols; and the Huns, led by Attila. Steppe warriors migrated south, seeking better lands. They waged war with inhabitants on the way, including the Romans. Along with them, the nomads brought their strong horses that had ruled the marshes for centuries.
The horses had large hooves for walking in muddy waters and white coats to endure the sun.
Those who believe in mythology say the white horses were a gift from Neptune, “Poseidon’s Horses,” given to man as his faithful companion and put on earth to share the everyday riches.
While the Camargue horses appear to run free, they are well-managed by “cowboys” or “les gardians.”
Stallions roam the rocky grasslands– a tradition that has been respected for generations. The rustic breed only eats grass from the soil — no additives.
Bred properly, a Camargue mare produces only one foal a year — by natural childbirth. There is no help from vets. One year after giving birth, female horses must be quarantined to allow time for rest.
Those who know these animals recognize they are intelligent. They are suitable for all types of endeavors — for work or show. It is important to treat them gently but firmly. The trainer or handler needs to be in charge.
Visitors to the Camargue who wish to ride the white horses will find numerous stables and excursions available for all ages of riders. Entering the area is like a vacation playground with horses as one of the main attractions.
If you have a few minutes, take the time to watch this video I found on YouTube. The majesty of the magnificent creatures and the accompanying music will make your day.