The Calves, Cows, Pigs and Broods of the Aquitaine region

Since 1991, the Conservatoire des Races d'Aquitaine (Organization for the Protection of Aquitaine Breeds) has been devoting itself to saving local animal breeds on the verge of extinction. The Bordelaise cow was one of the first breeds to be saved by the Conservatoire. Today, the institution preserves and promotes around 20 different breeds, from the Pyrenees to the region of Bordeaux.

Régis Ribereau-Gayon président du conservatoire des races d'AquitaineFondation du patrimoine

Local breeds, a heritage to preserve

In the 1990s, Régis Ribereau-Gayon noticed the disappearance of many local animal breeds. Hence, he founded the Conservatoire des Races d'Aquitaine (Races d'Aquitaine Conservatory), to gather together the last surviving animals of these species. This meant they were once again able to reproduce. To ensure a future for these animals, the Conservatoire also works to convince local farmers of the importance and interest of these breeds. They help the farmers to start up these types of farms. Preserving these animals involves the safeguarding of their natural environment and a particular way of rearing, called agropastoralism.

Vaches BordelaisesFondation du patrimoine

The Bordelaise cow, with its characteristic black and white markings, was the first to be saved by the Conservatoire.

In the 1890s, it was recognized as one of the best dairy cows. The Bordelaise cow was widely spread across France before competition from industrial breeds saw its numbers decline. The breed was thought to have died out in 1960.
Some more were discovered in Aquitaine between 1985 and 1990, which made it possible to reconstitute the breed.

In 2018, it received the National Heritage Foundation Award for animal agro-biodiversity and in 2020 there were over 300 cows.

Vaches MarinesFondation du patrimoine

The Marine Cow was also saved by the Conservatoire.
Native to the Aquitaine coastline, they lived freely in the dunes and the marshes until the end of the 19th century. Lively and restless, these are the cows that gave rise to the famous Landes bull race.

Vaches MarinesFondation du patrimoine

With the planting of pine forests for the exploitation of resin, these cows were gradually hunted and slaughtered and they disappeared in the 1950s.
A small domesticated herd was discovered in 1987, which made it possible for the Marine cow population to be reconstituted.

Taureau MarinFondation du patrimoine

Perfectly suited to moors, marshes, and undergrowth, they are now used for the ecological management of large natural areas. In 2020, there were 250 cows spread over 15 sites, across a total of 1,500 hectares.

Moutons LandaisFondation du patrimoine

The Landais sheep is another breed that almost disappeared with the logging of the Landes de Gascogne region.
Until the 19th century, they were vital for the local population, who used their dung to fertilize the sandy soil and their wool to make clothing.
Back then there were several hundred thousand of them, from the Bordeaux region to the Pyrenees.

Troupeau de moutons landais et chèvres des Pyrénées sur les bords du lac de Lacanau en GirondeFondation du patrimoine

They were almost extinct by the 1970s, with only a few of them left in the Landes de Gascogne Regional Nature Park.
In 2020, there were around 50 breeders sharing more than 3,000 sheep between them. These are mainly used for ecopastoralism.
They contribute to the ecological management of the natural environment by grazing. In doing so, they contribute to preventing forest fires in the Landais region.

Poules LandaisesFondation du patrimoine

The Landais hen also comes from the sandy areas of the Landes and Gironde.
The hens live around the Landes farms, in the airials (communal farmland) or in the undergrowth. They are found in the trees and in the traditional perched henhouses of the Landes. Living in these semi-wild conditions, the hens lay many eggs.

The hens' numbers are low due to this way of life dying out, but their numbers are nevertheless currently increasing as a result of conservation measures that have been taken. There are now around 150 hens and 20 farms.

Berger et chèvres des PyrénéesFondation du patrimoine

The Pyrenean Goat is a heritage breed that used to live throughout the Pyrenees mountain range.
Its milk is enjoyed in the big cities and even in Paris where, up until World War II, farmers from Bearn used to go with their animals to provide fresh milk directly.

Chèvre des PyrénéesFondation du patrimoine

In the second half of the 20th century, the number of goats declined sharply, partly as a result of the rural exodus but also because of the elimination of goats in forested areas and competition from selected breeds.
The Pyrenean goat was considered almost extinct in the early 1990s.
The breed is now increasing again, largely thanks to its hardiness, which enables it to survive on mountainous or overgrown land.

Berger et chèvres des PyrénéesFondation du patrimoine

Jean-Michel Lecorre is a sheep farmer. He is in charge of leading and caring for the Conservatoire des Races d'Aquitaine's herd, which includes 500 sheep and goats and is dedicated to the conservation of breeds and the maintenance of forests.

Bergerie des Landes du MédocFondation du patrimoine

The preservation of these breeds also entails the conservation of the indigenous heritage, like this sheepfold in Saint-Aubin-du-Médoc.
Built in 1869, it has been completely restored by the Conservatoire, with support from the Cultural Heritage Foundation.

Intérieur de la bergerie des Landes du MédocFondation du patrimoine

It is now used for the Landes sheep, the long-standing breed for which this traditional sheepfold was originally built, in order to collect the manure.

Rencontre avec Régis Ribereau-Gayon - Le conservatoire des races d'AquitaineFondation du patrimoine

Video meeting with Régis Ribereau-Gayon, presenting the work of the Conservatoire des Races d'Aquitaine.

Today, the Conservatoire works to preserve and promote 19 different species. In addition to the animals already mentioned, we should also acknowledge the following breeds:
The Béarnaise, Bazadaise and Betizu cows; the Landes pony and the Basque Pottok; the Pyrenean donkey; the Sasi Ardia sheep; the Gascon, and Basque pigs; the Gascon turkey; the goat rabbit; the black bees of both the Basque Country and the Landes de Gascogne.

Credits: Story

Many thanks to Régis Ribereau-Gayon for his valuable help in producing this content.

To support the work of the Fondation du Patrimoine (Cultural Heritage Foundation), please click on this link:

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Preserving the French South West
Hiddens gems, beyond the surf and the mountains
View theme
Google apps