The burons - Moutain Pasture Huts

Have you ever seen those curious little stone houses on the Aubrac plateau that stand here and there across pastures?

Aubrac’s burons huts

Have you ever seen curious little stone houses on the Aubrac plateau that stand here and there across pastures? These are the famous buron huts, which used to welcome men and animals during the summer. Sometimes planted here for several centuries, they bear witness to a way of life that is now over. This is where the fresh tomme cheese was made, used to make aligot.

L'architecture des burons

The buron pasture huts were most often composed of three parts:

  • Partly buried and always oriented on the north side, the cellar served as a storage and maturing facility for cheeses. It remains dark and does not exceed 12 °: essential conditions for optimal cheeses conservation. The floor was bare ground and the cheeses arranged on wooden panels raised with stones.
  • On the ground floor, the main room combined the cheese dairy, common room and meeting place for meals. Sober in appearance, it was dimly lit, the floor was bare ground or stone paved, while a fireplace was attached to the gable. The room was most often furnished with a dining table, benches and a wooden stove. A wall niche, closed or not by a door, allowed to store foodstuffs and some bottles, and the cold meats were suspended in the room by hooks. This is where all the items necessary for making cheese were stored.
  • The first buron huts were vaulted but over time framed burons were built to store hay for the calves and create a living space for the men sleeping upstairs.

Often a pigsty was built near the buron. Pigs and piglets were brought there during the summer period in order to be fattened for the farm needs or to be sold at the end of the summer. The whey served for their food.

The Buron men

The buron was inhabited during the summer pasture, as of May 25, traditional date of transhumance, to October 13. Life was rough on the Aubrac plateau: one had to endure isolation, exhausting heat of the day but also sudden and violent thunderstorms in summer. As such, men who came to spend the summer period in the Aubrac mountains had to be brave, hardworking, and above all loving the plateau’s life. Each had a very distinct function:

  •  The Cantalès is responsible for the Buron. He’s the teamleader and the cheese making supervisor.
  • The Pastre takes care of the herd.
  • The Bédelier takes care of the calves: he brings them to their mother at the time of milking every morning and evening, and regroups the cows in the evening to lock them up in the park.
  • The Roul, the youngest (as of 8 years old!) learns the mountains’ life: he helps the Pastre and mainly takes care of the ungrateful tasks. He cleans the tools, sweeps the buron, fetches water and wood and seconds the Pastre.