Charolais Cows near Charolle in France


Charolais Cows
On a recent trip from Lyon to Dijon, we decided to drive the slower roads rather than the autoroute.

Traveling the slower roads gave us a chance to see the miles of vineyards stretching up the gentle valley sides as we passed Beaune and Nuits-Saint-Georges on the approach to Dijon. It also gave us a chance to negotiate endless small roads that thread through Villefranche-sur-Saone, but that’s another story.

We also saw many small herds of Charolais cows and what struck us was that they were in very small herds, often just a dozen or so cows. And of course they looked so distinctive with their creamy-white bodies, so they were very easy to spot as we drove along – the color really jumps out from the landscape.

We took a trip out of Dijon a couple of days later, traveling minor roads, past undulating fields with occasional splashes of yellow from fields of rapeseed.


Eventually we stopped by a field with a small herd of Charolais cows and found a gap in the hedge so that we could up to the fence around the field. We called out to the cows and asked them to come close. It seemed best to call in French.

“Charolais, Charolais – venez, venez mes petits.” Nothing.

We pulled tufts of grass and offered them. Nothing.

So we lobbed the tufts of grass into the field in case the cows might be interested in them, and we turned and started walking back to the car.

And then through a dip in the hedge, we could see the cows coming steadily towards the grass we had left. So we turned back and cut through the gap in the hedge as before and spoke to the cows and asked them to pose while we took their photographs.

From the guidebook we read that Charolais cattle originally came from the area around Charolle, a small town somewhat to the west of and about halfway between Lyon and Dijon, and on our trip back to Lyon we saw signs for the town and looked at each other knowingly – for we knew about the cows that come from Charolle.

A quick search of Google shows associations of breeders in the United States, Britain, Argentina, and Australia – and probably many more countries.

But these were French Charolais, and not far from home.


The Gap in the Hedge

  1. Nick Lewis

    Lovely story. Strangely I was talking to Tina about Dijon the other day, as in the mustard and how much I have grown to like it! I then went onto say that we should go there. Tina nodded and went “hmmmmmm”, as we were eating Sausages with mustard at the time!! 🙂

  2. Nick Lewis

    I love tenuous links!!! (Apologies was going to add this to the previous comment!!)

  3. Dear David!
    Thanks for stopping by!
    The picture of the stamp is readily available on the web, but I doubt there is a larger version.
    As for Charolais, this is almost my birthplace! I even went to high school in Charolles!
    Incidentally I was born in Dijon!
    My family lives in Cote Chalonnaise now.
    What exactly do you want to know about Charolais?
    I might be able to help you as I’m French!

    • David Bennett

      Dear Robert-Gilles,
      The history of farms and farming in England is a story of bigger farms swallowing up smaller ones. I know that farming in England is very efficient, but at the same time thousands of miles of hedges have been grubbed up to make way for bigger fields and more machinery. The result has not been good for wildlife, and I have seen a big decline in bird numbers.

      When I saw the Charolais in France, I noticed that the herds were very small compared to what I am used to seeing in England. So I wonder whether there are many small farms in that part of France? The countryside is certainly very beautiful and varied.

      All the best,

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