The Aure et Saint-Girons is otherwise known as the Casta. It gains its name from where it originates, the Vallée d’Aure in the area of Saint-Girons in France.
It’s alternative name, Casta, was derived from the colour of the breed, chestnut. The breed is native to the French Pyrénées and is one of the oldest breeds in the area. There were originally two variations of the breed, distinguished by where the lived. The Auroise hailed from the Vallée d’Aure, Hautes-Pyrénées and the Saint-Gironnaise from Saint-Girons and Couserans in the Ariége.
Historically the triple-purpose breed was found in the high Pyrénées and the first herdbook was established in the early 1900’s. It was officially named in 1900, race bovine d’Aure et de Saint Girons.
The breed thrived in the early 1900’s, though in the 30-year period from 1930 to 1958, population numbers dropped from 30,000 head to less than 9,000. This was followed by further decreases during the second world war and by 1983, there were only 76 cows remaining and only 12 farms in total!
The breed was listed as endangered by the FAO in 2007, with numbers estimated at 427 head two years previously, 2005. This had increased to over 320 by the year 2014.
Casta cattle vary in colour from chestnut to a grey or grey/brown colour. They have pale coloured skin and their mucous membranes are also pale. A horned breed, they are generally lyre-shaped. At full maturity, a cow can weigh on average 600kgs and up to 135cms in height, while bulls weigh up to or over 900kgs.
A very hardy and resistant breed, capable of thriving in harsh conditions and tough terrains, such as the mountains. They have hard hooves, which enable them to travel long distances on rocky terrains. Cows make excellent mothers, with their milk of high quality and capable of feeding calves for up to 5-months.
They were originally used as a triple-purpose breed, having been used for draught work, milk production and for its meat. In the past, the breed was used to carry timber down from the mountain valleys. The breed is now mainly reared for meat production, mainly veal production, while it’s milk is used in cheese production. It has ahigh-fatt content and is used to produce Bethmale cheese.
The endangered breed from the High Pyrénees, the Aure et Saint-Girons is still hanging on, by a thread.