Auvergne Holiday Cottages view
Auvergne Holiday Cottages Introduction text
AuvergneLarge1 - Visitor Information - Animals

Bats are fairly abundant though I cannot say what sorts we have. Even the most confirmed townsman can tell a budgie from a swan yet who recognises the dozen or more species of bat found in Northern Europe? Certainly not me, though I do find them interesting. We have at least three varieties in the roof that take flight at different times before dusk.

Deer can be seen from time to time, most often running across the road. We suffer from both red and roe deer in the vegetable garden.
There are moufflon in the mountains. The only time we have seen them close up was a spring evening when we were returning across the Col Croix St Robert. The high ground was white with a late fall of snow. Ahead of us, animals jumped onto the road, ran into the field on our left and watched us warily but let us drive within twenty yards. It was a group of a dozen rams, beautiful with their brown coats, a whitish patch on their sides and great, curly horns. Moufflon are primitive sheep.

Chamois only appeared on the Sancy range quite recently, travelling from the southern massif spontaneously. Who knows why this sudden migration occurred? Maybe they were too numerous in the south. We have seen groups of chamois on both ranges when walking there.

Wild boar are reputedly both clever and very shy. People see something shadowy crossing the road ahead of their car at night. Are there still wolves here, visitors ask? They report what looked like a big grey dog. Almost certainly boar. We have seen them at dusk in the Rhue Gorge and our neighbours once lost all their potatoes. Boar's presence is clear enough: look for areas of ground turned over in the search for food. In winter their tracks are often identifiable because their tummies leave a groove in deeper snow.

are found on both northern and southern massifs.

are not timid and may even come into people's houses at night where they cough, scratch, fight, wheeze, chew and crash about like kangaroos. About 10 inches long, nocturnal, big eyes, soft grey fur and very agile, they are charming and pretty but a real nuisance indoors where they can do considerable damage, not least to wiring. Dormice get fat in summer, sleep from November to spring, waking up slim again. There are also the smaller, brown hazel dormice, but I have not seen them. Dormouse is a misnomer as they are not mice and have nothing to do with doors that I know of. The name comes from "dormer", to sleep.
Nature18 Nature23
Nature21 Nature1 Pine and beech martens are seen from time to time and in the winter of '96/7, killed all our hens. Guests staying in the Sweet Little House have often watched pine martens from the bedroom window.

Stoats generally turn white in winter (& are then known as ermine). Visitors at the SLH watched one on 7.12.2000 and I see them most winters from my office window. There are also weasels which specialise in hunting rat-taupiers underground.

We see red squirrels occasionally. With their tufty ears and bushy tails they are much more appealing than greys which have not reached Auvergne. Since pine martens have been protected, their numbers have increased considerably, very much to the detriment of squirrels which they are able to catch.

Reptiles & amphibians: the most commonly seen snakes are grass snakes - coulèvres. There are adders too, which are very shy, and two sorts of lizard. An interesting amphibian is the salamander, like a large black newt with vivid yellow streaks.

Cattle: the local breed is the Salers (sal’air), red with lyre shaped horns. Triple purpose, until very recently they were used as draft animals. Today, they produce meat and milk. Salers cheese is similar to Cantal but can only be made within this area and from the milk of Salers cows at grass, which means from about April to October, making it available from summer to spring. The breed numbers 180,000 - by comparison, there are over a million Limousins.

Another mostly beef breed, Aubracs, can be seen on higher ground - there is a fine herd by the road to La Godivelle and another in summer on the east of the Pont de Clamouze. Their home territory is further south. Bulls are frequently almost black, the biscuit/mushroom coloured cows look very fetching with black points - nose, ears, eyes, feet, tail. They are reputed to be hardier than Salers and well suited to the highest grazing land. The breed numbers some 80,000.

Dairy cattle:
Montbeillard cows are red and white blotched, like Ayrshires. The commonest dairy breed, their milk is used for cheese making. Another widespread minor breed, the Abondance, originates from the Alps; cows have a slightly striped brownish red body with a white face.
An endangered local breed, the Ferrandaise, was reduced to only 160 cows in 1978, numbers have now crept back to 550, but many blood-lines have been lost. They are red and white or mottled.

Until quite recently, both cows and steers were used universally as draught animals. Although one or two elderly farmers still continue the practice, it has all but disappeared. Nowadays, draught beasts can be seen pulling their carts at summer events, exhibited by enthusiasts. Working cattle were shod with oval iron shoes like the one in the SLH and can occasionally be found at antique fairs. The little sheds (known as “travails”) with pulleys still found in some country villages were built for shoeing cattle.

Sheep: principally a dairy breed, white faced Lacaunes are the origin of Roquefort and most sheep’s cheese. Said to number some 800,000. Unsurprisingly, they look quite like a Friesland with a white face and pink skin. Similar but somewhat stockier are the Blanc du Massif Central, or BMC for short, the second commonest breed in the mountains, after the Bizet, which are black sheep with a broad white face stripe, though their fleece tends to turn ginger in the sun; rams are horned, ewes polled. There are said to be 150,000 Bizets. Looking like BMCs, Limousine sheep are not really local but are common in northwest Cantal. In southwest Cantal are the Causses du Lot with white faces and striking black eye patches like pandas. The handsome pure black polled sheep are Noires du Velay, population 40,000. Last comes the speckle-faced Rava, also numbering 40,000, found mostly in the higher mountains.

Though not strictly local, there are three rare breeds, the Raïole, the Caussenarde des Garrigues and the Rouge du Rousillon which are slowly recovering from the brink of extinction.

All sheep in France have to have a personal ID number on an ear tag. In Britain, numbering is only required for cattle.

Auvergne also has one breed of goat, the Chèvre du Massif Central, reportedly affectionate and mischievous. Not how I’d describe a goat. The commoner Grivette is an Alpine breed. In the poultry stakes, there’s the Bourbonnais, a black turkey, and other fowl (including the Coq du Pêche whose feathers are used for tying trout flies), geese, ducks and rabbits, as well as a donkey, the Ane du Bourbonnais, black with a white muzzle, and the small strong Auvergne horse, only 80 are known.

Taking up the rear as it were, is the Cul Noir (black bum) a stately pig which has what you’d expect with a name like that.

Dragonflies & Damselflies are very difficult to identify without a net to catch (& release) them but at watery places you will see some brightly-coloured obvious ones.
For the uninitiated, damselflies generally carry their wings folded backwards along their bodies when at rest and are smaller than dragonflies.
Bright blue - Common Blue
Bright ruby red - Small Red
Bright green - Emerald
Electric/peacock blue, looks much more substantial with dark brown wings, hovering, over the water - Beautiful Demoiselle

Among the dragonflies (wings held outwards)
The wasp-like markings of yellow and black - Club-tailed Dragonfly
Red-orange, not very big - Darters
Very pale blue/grey body - Skimmers
The largest are the Hawkers
Male with paired blue, pear-shaped spots along his body - Hairy Dragonfly
Female with paired yellow spots; these are the earliest in the season

Later, undoubtedly the Brown Hawker, with amber wings and the Emperor, male very blue, female very green. There are far more in July & August but this list may help you begin to appreciate them. Butterflies are very closely linked to the flora, soil type and altitude


Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages)
*Safflower Skipper (Pyrgus fritillarius) - both dull brown with white markings
Large Skipper (Ochlodes venatus)
Small Skipper (Thymelious sylvestris) - Both orange brown
Whites *Blackveined (Aporia crategi) - the one most seen here - almost transparent
Small (Pieris rapae) - underside yellowish
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) - male bright yellow

*Common (Polymmatus icarus) male is blue, female is brown
Idas (Lycaeides idas) - male deep blue

Orange Tip (anthocharis ardamines) - goes with Lady’s Smock
Small Copper (Lycaena phlacas) 2.2 - 2.7, orange with dark brown spots & brown edges
Green Veined White (as above) (Pieris napi)
Fritillary unidentified, also
Wall Brown, (as above

Fritillaries (very hard to distinguish):
Silver-washed (argynnis paphia) - is the largest (up to 7 cm wingspan & bright orange
*Spotted (Melitaea didyma) - is a red-orange, about 4 cm
*Heath (mellicta athalia)
*Meadow (Mellicta parthenoides) - both very similar
as are
Niobe (argynnis niobe) &
High Brown (Argynnis adippe)

Of the Browns:
*Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) - very common. Dark brown with eyespot on each forewing.
*Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) - could be confused with a fritillary except that the underside has a row of eyespots.
*Dryad (Minois dryas) - dark brown with 2 large, blue-centred eyespots on each forewing
*Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) - dark brown, with several, yellow-ringed eyespots on the underside. Very fond of bramble. Slow flier.
Woodland Ringlet (Erebia medusa) - on GR30 both sides of Godivelle. Bigger & prominent eyespots (4) on each wing.
Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) - is much smaller, about 2.5 cm. Has orange/red row of crescents at outer edge of each wing.
Smallest (very tiny) is:
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - bright orange, fades with age.

Assorted other Butterflies:
Marbled White (Melonargia galathea) - black with large white spots, about 5-5.5 cm.
White Admiral (Ladoga camilla) - brown/black with white band through middle of each wing, up to 6 cm.
Small Tortoiseshell (aglais urticae) - probably the one everyone knows with orange-red ground colour, black markings and edged with blue crescents.
Red Admiral (Vanessa Atlanta) - black with red bands and white spots.
Purple Emperors (Apatura iris) are also regular summer visitors

Many and varied, day and night flying, most of which are hard to identify.
*The Chimney Sweeper - black with thin white stripe at the tip of forewing, very plentiful in the field
Yellow Shell - like a small shell on the seashore - lives up to its name
Garden Carpet
*Beautiful yellow underwing
6-spot Burnet - black with red spots.
Hummingbird Hawkmoth - the common sort seen hovering, sipping nector.
Occasionally, Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth which are larger furry ones

* seen in field at La Borie