The rings of the half-moon horns of the rustic animal tell of its age and a singular genetics, which is lost in the mists of time. Germaine Hacala, Jean-Pierre Perré and Imanol Amestoy, co-authors of the…
The rings of the half-moon horns of the rustic animal tell of its age and a singular genetics, which is lost in the mists of time. Germaine Hacala, Jean-Pierre Perré and Imanol Amestoy, co-authors of the popularization summary of Betizu (from “behi” cow and “izu” wild) each have their experience and interest in this wild and fascinating animal.
Germaine Hacala, former deputy mayor of Urrugne in charge of sustainable development, participated in the creation, in 2017, of the Betizu steering committee, with, around the table, the municipalities of Urrugne and Biriatou, where bovids animals evolve over 500 to 1,000 hectares, the Conservatory of Aquitaine breeds, veterinary services and representatives of hunters. “I defended the existence of these Betizu as heritage of our territory”, remembers the Urrugnarde.
Two ownerless herds
Jean-Pierre Péré, a long-time member of the Jakintza association, and Imanol Amestoy, animator at the Permanent Center for Environmental Initiatives (CPIE) on the Basque coast, are two mountain enthusiasts, surprised to note the lack of knowledge of the Betizu breed, and not only among vacationers who may come across them on hikes.
“There are currently two unowned Betizu herds, one in Xoldokogaina with around 25 heads and the other in Mondarrain with around 60 heads,” write the three authors. To this livestock should be added the herds belonging to private breeders: one in Urrugne, and three farms on the Mondarrain and Artzamendi mountains in Espelette, Itxassou and Ainhoa.
In the 1920s, a herd of Betizu grazed on the slopes of the Rhune, before the construction of the train resulted in the elimination of around sixty animals. One hundred years later, while Betizu contributes to maintaining open environments in the Natura 2000 zone, it still does not have any protection that would be attached to any status.
Neither protected domestic animal nor endangered wild species, the Betizu was the subject of a thesis, “The Betizu, a bovine population of the Basque mountains. Legal status and management methods”, in 2010, by Mirentxu Bernez-Vignolle. And a management plan in progress, supported by the Basque Country Agglomeration Community and the Aquitaine Breeds Conservatory, has the merit of perfecting the knowledge and protection of the breed.