RAREBREEDOFSHOWSTARS

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Coverstory -

Over the next fort­night, you will hardly be able to walk through Paris with­out en­coun­ter­ing a rus­set­coloured cow. Her soft eyes al­ready gaze ru­mi­na­tively out of posters on buses and Métro sta­tions. Horns shin­ing in the sun­light, she is the sort of an­i­mal you would like to in­vite to a din­ner party, al­beit she might ar­rive on a plate. This glo­ri­ous an­i­mal is Li­mousin, one of 25 cat­tle breeds rep­re­sented at the Salon In­ter­na­tional de l’Agri­cul­ture. Oth­ers in­clude the Rouge Fla­mande, the Vos­gi­enne, the Abon­dance… names that by them­selves evoke images of wild­flower mead­ows and sparkling brooks.

‘‘We are the only show to present so many an­i­mals,’’ says SIA di­rec­tor Béatrice Col­let. ‘‘There will be more than 3,500 this year.’’

“Wel­come to the Pigsty” is the ti­tle of one sec­tion in the Vil­lage of the Pig, de­signed to show porcine France at its best. Chil­dren will find lots of piggy games to play, in­clud­ing an interactive board show­ing which parts of the pig go into var­i­ous char­cu­terie prod­ucts.

A cook­ery demon­stra­tion will show how to pre­pare lamb, drawn from 38 dif­fer­ent breeds. Young shep­herds from a dozen re­gions will take part in a sheep Olympics. The goats, in­clud­ing rare breeds, will be ac­com­pa­nied by an of­fer­ing of goat’s cheese for vis­i­tors to taste. They will be joined by 1,000 dogs, 610 rabbits and 100 horses. Four­footed win­ners of the grandly- named Con­cours Général Agri­cole des An­i­maux et des Pro­duits, with 2,100 an­i­mals com­pet­ing, will be pa­raded in the show ring on the last day.

The SIA is not rec­om­mended as a des­ti­na­tion for veg­e­tar­i­ans. There is a Planet Meat, even a foie gras tast­ing, but no Planet Ve­gan. Proper farm­ers (they ac­count for a quar­ter of the show’s vis­i­tors) fo­cus on the way breed­ing can im­prove the qual­ity of their herds and flocks. The rest of the crowd sim­ply en­joy get­ting close to some of the most beau­ti­ful an­i­mals of their kind. If you are French, it is a bonus that many of the breeds are na­tives.

Poul­try was ab­sent last year due to bird flu, but re­turns in tri­umph in the Podium of the French Farm­yard, with 1,500 birds and rabbits on dis­play. Breeds that orig­i­nated in France (45 in the case of chick­ens, 19 in the case of rabbits) are to the fore.

You have to hand it to the or­gan­is­ers: they know how to tug the French heart­strings. It is quite se­duc­tive. Vive l’en­tente cor­diale. The Salon In­ter­na­tional de l’Agri­cul­ture is at the Porte de Ver­sailles from March 3-11, open daily, 9am-7pm. See www.salon-agri­cul­ture.com. Eurostar op­er­ates up to 17 daily ser­vices from Lon­don Water­loo and Ash­ford In­ter­na­tional to Paris, with re­turn fares cost­ing from £59. Tick­ets are avail­able from www.eurostar.com or by call­ing 08705 186 186.

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