Crazy Catalan Cows Wreak Village Havoc
Mad, bad, Catalan cows are terrorising the peaceful villagers of L’Albère in the Pyrenees-Orientales, goring walkers, trashing vehicles and skinny-dipping in private swimming pools.
To the indignation of the locals, hot-blooded Spanish bovines, imbued with the El Conquistador spirit, pour down the mountain pass from La Jonquera, Girona in northeastern Spain, just 11 km south, to guzzle the sweeter pastures on the French side of the border, wreaking havoc as they go.
While cuddly French cows are painted as bucolic, pastoral, genteel even, their rougher Spanish counterparts are definitely regarded as the bully boys of the Pyrenees. Now after a decade of being invaded by the increasingly aggressive “massanesa” or “fagina” breed as they are known, the hamlet’s mayor, 77-year-old M. Pierre de Besombes Singla is angry.
M. Singla — L’Albère’s maire since 1971 — called the aggro of the Spanish bullies “unacceptable”, an understatement if ever there was one. “We no longer know where to turn,” he told France Bleu Roussillon radio station.
“We’ve had a problem with these rogues for the past ten years. They charge at people, gore walkers and frighten mushroom pickers, plunge into swimming pools, and ransack our gardens, it’s no longer amusing”. He said the Catalan cows jumped over 1.2m high fences, frolicked in forest fire fighters’ water reservoirs and ate the flowers in the cemetery.
In 2008, the prefecture of the Pyrenees-Orientales gave permission to slaughter the animals and some 23 of the worst offenders were killed. This provoked outrage from animal rights’ activists and animal lovers who organised “adopt a cow” campaigns and talked gravely about the need for “cow sanctuaries”.
“The permission (to slaughter) has not been extended so as to avoid further controversy,” Antoine André the sub-prefect of Céret, told the radio station. “This is a complex problem and we cannot eradicate it simply and quickly. The solution lies in farmer awareness. “
However the misguided bovine do-gooders have earned the derision of local cattle farmers who point out that the wild Spanish breeds are invading because they have been abandoned by their owners on the other side of the border. “They are not inspected or tested any more by vets, some are diseased, some are interbreeding with our stock which is detrimental, and their wild roaming and rampaging is threatening certified herds on this side of the border”, said one farmer.
The cow-bothering trouble began with the death of the owner of the Spanish ranch in La Jonquera, whose heirs had no interest in the herd. “The grass is greener and sweeter on the French side so the abandoned cows began regularly crossing the border. There are around 80 of them, they outnumber the residents of our hamlet by 6”, said Mayor Singla.
Calves are born and not tagged nor subject to veterinary inspections and this poses “a health problem for our cows”, said Francois, a 43-year farmer in the village whose herd of 50 is constantly infiltrated by the Spanish marauders.
The locals admit the cows mostly show their wildest charging and goring side when they are with their calves, as nature intended. But says M. de Besombes-Singla, “we need a solution, there are good reasons why this invasion must end. In the mountains in the summer, it is now more dangerous to cross the path of a cow than a bear, a cow is not a small dog or a cat, you can get gored, you can get badly hurt”.
In 2004, he said, his deputy was attacked by a cow and his vehicle was pitched into a ditch. He pointed out that in early September 2010, dozens of “massaneses” short of food, invaded L’Albère, a mountain village 800m above sea level, near Perthus. A local girl was attacked, a woman hit, a man wounded in the hand, a cow charged a vehicle, and another fell into a swimming pool,” he said.
In 2009, after talks between authorities on both sides of the border, the owners of the Catalan cows promised to round them up and drive them home but so far this has not happened.
So now on the website of the Albères municipality there is a large warning to walkers and visitors, “Watch out for cows, do not approach them”.
The Albers as the villagers are known, are strong on traditional festivals and fetes and here they show that despite the invaders from Spain, the hamlet is not about to be diverted from its annual summer fun and “The Roser Albers” festival took place as normal this year:
If you’re now feeling sorry for the cow-besieged farmers in their mountain reaches, think how much worse it must be for French city dwellers caught short by the latest fashion scam involving pet “minature” pigs.
Blame it if you will on American celebrities who started the fad for Vietnamese pigs as pets, but cochons nains breeders in France stand accused of taking consumers for a ride.
According to an association known as GroinGroin (grunt grunt) the local scammers fail to provide full disclosure when advertising their cute domestic dwarf pig pets as the latest must-have fashion accessory.
The pigs, you see, weigh in at as much as 80 kilos once fully grown, and naturally find it hard to stagger down six flights of stairs in some chique arrondissement building to take a leak (or worse) on the street.
This, says GroinGroin, means that “70% of families who acquire these pigs as pets” abandon them. “Dwarf pigs are very intelligent, loving, clean (yes!), fun and exciting. They make very good pets IF AND ONLY IF they are given considerable time and attention… be very well informed before you adopt a pig!” the website warns.
So buyer beware, consult GroinGroin first, and to help you make your choice, here are a few pictures of what’s in store for would-be piggy-cuddlers, courtesy of GroinGroin.
Story: Ken Pottinger