Basque Sports


Basque pelota is the common name used to refer to a number of traditional games which originated from the jeu de paume or real tennis. In Europe it is played mainly in the south-west of France and the Basque Country, as well as in Spain, in the Basque Autonomous Region (Alava, Biscay & Gipuzkoa) and Navarre.
It is also played throughout those parts of Latin America which were host to a strong tradition of Basque immigration.

There are also courts in other parts of France as far away as Paris, Marseille, Grasse, Lille, Tourcoing and Santa Maria Poghju (Corsica).

There are seven main specialities in Basque pelota:

  • rebot (rebound)
  • pasaka
  • hand pelota
  • xare (soft racket)
  • chistera (basket glove): joko garbi (shorter version), grand chistera (longer version), remonte (flatter basket) and cesta punta (edged basket)
  • leather ball pala: long bat, short bat, wide bat and leather bat
  • rubber paleta: Spanish rubber paleta (full ball) and Argentinean rubber paleta (balina, hollow ball)

You can see grand chistera pelota matches in the village’s fronton every Monday in July and August.

Basque dancing

Basque dances are a very important part of Basque culture. Each province has its own particularities and each village has its own dance which it usually performs during the village’s festivities.
Some are very ancient, their origins going back to the dawn of time, others are more or less modern arrangements of traditional dances, and some are new choreographies with popular roots.

We can distinguish three types of dances:

  • Processions or village square dances: These are based on festivities with processions and in which villagers take part spontaneously. They have contributed to developing the repertoire of groups of existing dances, although even today this type of popular and spontaneous dance which invites all the paraders and visitors to take part continues to be organised in all processions, especially in the countryside.
  • Sword dances: These have an obvious link with European variants of the same type. Their performance, always linked to commemorating or honouring, is reminiscent of ritual dances during which people respectfully support groups of dancers.
  • End of festivities dances: This type of dance is to mark the end of festivities or a particular event, such as the carnival. They help symbolically dissolve festivities. It is the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one.

Performances by the local group Zazpiak Bat take place in the village square in July and August.

Traditional Basque sports

Traditional Basque sports trials (Herri Kirolak in Basque) were originally based on daily work carried out. Over the centuries, young Basques from different farms would challenge each other.

  • Forestry work in the Basque Country gave rise to Aizkolariak – wood cutters who work using an axe or Arpanariak, sawyers
  • Building work, cathedrals, monasteries, etc. gave rise to Harri jasotzaileak, stone lifters
  • Work in the fields and on the farm gave rise to several events, including the most well known and commonly played: Lasto altxatzea, hay bale lifting, using a fork or a pulley; Orga joko, cart lifting; Zaku lasterka, sack race – both individual and relay; and Untziketariak, running with milk cans

Finally, there’s Sokatira or tug-of-war, an internationally recognised discipline played in over 14 countries.

You can see demonstrations of traditional Basque sports in the village square throughout July and August.