Because its whiteness pleased Zeus and because his wife Hera was fiercely jealous, the young nymph Io was transformed into a heifer, condemned to flee far from the gods and their anger. In quite a different vein, and much closer to home, France's Cantal province has always drawn a large part of its wealth from cattle farming. Among the many races bred in France, Salers is almost revered as sacred given that certain famed names of French gastronomy claim its meat to be superior to that of all other breeds.
In the heart of Cantal, in Valette, not far from Riom-ès-Montagnes, in a region that has been particularly hard hit by unemployment, but with majestic landscapes, the local authorities felt that a tribute paid to this breed that had for so many years been the livelihood of the surrounding villages was only natural, and just might help to get the local economy back on its feet.
The return of the aurochs
After forming a public-private enterprise, they came up with the principle of an entertaining and educational animal theme park, entirely given over to the local pride and joy: cattle.
Going back 40,000 years, the Scénoparc iO theme park, which opened on April 29, 2006, celebrates this companion of mankind, taken too much for granted in our part of the world, in all its forms. Visitors can discover breeds that are not found in France (musk oxen, buffalos and yaks), and extinct breeds (aurochs) that have been recreated thanks to the obstinacy of certain zealous participants.
Among the various activities, there will be screenings of films recounting the particular relationship between humans and this horned animal since the Paleolithic era. So that children can take part in this journey of discovery, a special activity area, packed with educational materials explaining the history of the relationship between humans and their preferred cattle, has been set aside especially for them. The 30 000 euros granted by the Veolia foundation was used to finance this children's area.
To run the Scénoparc iO, ten jobs have been created, not counting the work already provided to scores of local companies.