Heritage of the Auvergne volcanoes bequeathed to the former Rouergue region, the Aubrac plateau (40 x 20 km) stretches over the southern Massif Central straddling the departments of Aveyron, Lozere and Cantal. At an altitude ranging from 1000 to 1400 meters, its climate is typically mountain-like, with long, harsh winters punctuated by sometimes very heavy snowfalls. Its landscapes alternate between extensive pastures and deep beech forests. An eternal nature still prevails endowing it with an exceptional floristic richness with more than 1000 species of plants, some of which are very rare.
Until the eleventh century, the Aubrac was covered with deep forests where bandits hid and attacked pilgrims coming from Puy-en-Velay on their way to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. Insecurity and the harsh climate prompted Adalard, count of Flemish origin, to found an abbey in the small village of Aubrac, to protect the pilgrims. It was built by the monks in 1120. They began clearing the forest area around the abbey. At that time, the deforested lands, too high for good cereal growing, were revealed to be rich for pasture and more suitable for breeding.
Thus, was born the Aubrac cattle breed composed of self-governed animals, particularly resistant to climatic hazards. Since then, cattle breeding remains the basis of Aubrac’s economic activity, together with AOC Laguiole cheese production and cutlery craft industry.
Aubrac has remained faithful to its traditions. The most famous being the transhumance, annual migration of herds to higher pastures, which gathers thousands of spectators.
Even today, every May 25, on Saint Urban’s day, the stables of the valley are emptied and the cows, adorned with bells, flowers and branches, go up to join the summer pastures. They come down before winter, around October 13, day of Saint Guiral.
Until recently, cows and calves were kept by the buronniers during the summer months. Life was self-sufficient around the burons, a rudimentary granite dwelling with a kind of slate (lauze) roofing, where fresh tome and butter were made, as well as the Laguiole cheese, which was refined in its cellars. On Sunday, one could come to eat the aligot, bringing his own cutlery and wine.