4th day, Champillon — What do you do when there are a number of separate herds of Bessies ‘n’ Flossies and only one of them can reign supreme in each group? Answer: You stage a face-off, that’s what. Such is the Battle of the Queens.
This battle does not in any way include blood and casualties, but plays out as willful confrontation prompted by instinct. Try putting a bunch of adamant females together – kidding ladies! – and inevitably there will be one who leads the rest. This challenge between ‘queens’ is yet another aspect of valdostana tradition in which we felt privileged to witness. Held high up in the mountains (we had to stop twice for directions), there were people of all ages crowded around the ring’s perimeter. A chorus of voices rose and fell with the subsequent victory or defeat of the ring’s contenders. The cows are supervised so as not to hurt themselves or the spectators, but there were instances where an agitated cow charged towards the perimeter. [Note: this bataille was just one of many preliminaries throughout the year, eventually culminating in the final battle in October at Aosta.]
Three pairs in size/weight categories – Big Bessie, Bigger Bessie and Biggest Bessie – competed in the arena. The first to cede and turn away was led out of the ring. Again, no cows were hurt in nature’s own way of determining pecking order. The ones out from competition or waiting their turn flanked both sides of the field, enabling visitors a closer look at these magnificent ladies. I shot over a hundred photos and put the best of them in a slideshow, even if it doesn’t come anywhere near to the real thing.