French bull jumper Emmanuel “Manu” Lataste faces fiesty Mexican bulls in a tradition known as “course landaise.”
The gasps from the crowd in the grandstands are audible. Emmanuel Lataste springs from the ground and does a flying summersault over a charging bull.
“I do a special kind of French bull fighting and jumping,” says the French bull jumper. “In English, it’s ‘bull jumping,’ but in French the name is ‘course landaise.’ It’s a mix between French bullfighting and pure ‘Spanish’ bull jumping, or leaping. The style that I do now is about 200 years old. But the traditions traces back 500 years, and there are stories that show the sport happened in old Italian, Greek and Hispanic arenas more than 2,000 years ago.”
Lataste, 32, is from Monfort, France. He says the southwest of France is rich will bull culture. His father jumped bulls, and his brother raises Spanish bulls and cows. Lataste started jumping at age 14.
After 15 years jumping in France, Lastaste says he wanted to bring the tradition to America. Flying U Rodeo Company in Marysville, California, hired him, and his first performance was at the Reno Rodeo.
“My performance is me and a Mexican bull in the arena for two minutes,” says Lataste, who started his own company, Bull Jumping Pro Corporation. “I do as many jumps as possible. A lot of time I’m at the closing, and I think they want to use me like a firework. I want people in the stands to see me and think, ‘Wow, who is that guy? That is crazy! We will never do what he does, but he does it good so we are happy.'”
He credits the bull fighters he works with for much of the performance’s success. “Their job is to captivate the bull and bring it to me,” he says. “It’s best when they have a fresh bull, but it’s almost impossible to find one that is fresh because they are hard to find in the United States.”