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