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The Garden of Pliny the Elder and the Small Vegetable Garden ofCassinomaguspresent a selection of plants that the Romans used in their daily life. Each cultivation square brings together plants according to their uses: vegetable, medicinal, aromatic, decorative, food and utility plants.

The plants that can be seen there today are only part of the knowledge of Pliny the Elder in the 1st century, who listed more than 900 plants in his Natural History encyclopedia. The plants presented in the gardens therefore do not constitute an exhaustive list, and the collection has been enriched over the years. 

The mini-farm is accessible during our opening hours. Dogs (even on a leash) are not allowed in this area. Pour tours of the mini-farm, have a look at the dedicated page (tours and activities).

plan de la prairie des animaux

Plan de la prairie des animaux

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The discovery of goat bones dating from about 3000 BC, shows that the exploitation of this animal by the inhabitants of the region, took place well before the Roman colonization. It is considered a cousin species of the common goat (capra hircus vulgaris), domesticated in the Middle East. During Antiquity, goat farms are less common than sheep farms, as they are more prone to diseases, but also because of their restless character (according to Varro).On the picture, our ambassador Poppée and her big sister, Paulina.


The sheep is one of the first animals to be domesticated. It is one of the most bred species in Roman Gaul, alongside cattle and hog. White wools are the most sought after, as they are easier to dye, though black, brown or fawn wools also exist throughout the Empire. There is evidence of the Ouessant sheep’s presence on the island of Ouessant since the Neolithic period. Its size and variety of wool color make it a good representative of the species present in Gaul before the
Roman invasion. Its population reached its peak in the 19th century. Then, with the arrival of more intensive agricultural techniques, the population declined before disappearing completely from the island in 1925. Since 1970, a project for the protection of the breed has been in progress.

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The Barbezieux hen and rooster is a local species from the Charente. It is recognizable by its iridescent black dress and its large crest and red barbels. The Romans often sacrifice black roosters to the gods of the underground world. Today, it is considered an endangered species. It is therefore the subject of a safeguard project. It is raised mainly for its meat and eggs.



Julius Caesar compares the Gauls to roosters in his account of the Gallic War, the Latin word gallus meaning “rooster” and “Gaul”. The Gallic hen has a pinkish and golden plumage, resembling the shimmering plumages depicted in ancient representations. Since 2018, it is considered an endangered species as there are very few individuals in France. Today, the rooster is one of the emblems of France.



Domesticated during the Neolithic period, the Provence donkey appears around a million years ago at the same time as the horse and the zebra. There has been evidence of the Provence donkey’s presence as a mountanimal in Egypt since the 5th millennium. It is a very common animal in Egyptian, Greek and Roman societies: many representations display its characteristic black cross (called today “the St-Andrew cross”). In Gallo-Roman societies, the Provence donkey is used for the transport of heavy loads or for towing purposes; though its primary use is for the procreation of mules (mare-donkey cross) and hinnies (horse-donkey cross). In Roman literature, the donkey is often associated with stupidity, brutality and debauchery. However, it is a symbol of humility for Christians and Hebrews.

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This species seems to be already known and hunted by the Romans. The Mallard duck is not protected because it is very common. However, it is the sixth most hunted species in France and its living environment is threatened. The male is recognizable thanks to its green head, brown chest and white collar. The female has a reddish-brown plumage. They both have two-coloured beaks: orange on the ends and grey-brown in the centre.



The name pheasant comes from the Latin term “phasianus” meaning “Phase bird”. Indeed, the pheasant is of Asian origin. A legend tells us that the first Colchide pheasants were brought back to Greece by Jason, when he went in search of the Golden Fleece. Female pheasants have a rather dull plumage, while the males have a colourful plumage, a long tail and facial ornaments. Today, most pheasants come from farms and are released to be hunted (the specias is one of the most hunted in France).



Guinea fowl are birds native to Africa, known at the time as the Numidian chicken. A Greek legend tells us that when King Melearg died, Artemis, goddess of hunting, turned the king’s sisters into guinea fowl to console them; their incessant crying responsible for the animal’s characteristic white spots. A law from 115 BC forbids Romans from eating exotic animals such as the guinea fowl. The animal is recognizable by its horny head and purple barbels.



The grey goose, a migratory bird of northern Europe, is
thought to be the ancestor of all domesticated palmiped birds. Their domestication dates back to ancient Egypt: representations show geese served at dinner tables. Legend has it that in 390 BC, the white geese of the Capitol Hill in Rome warned of the surprise attack of the Gauls. Pliny the Elder (naturalist) also mentions the feeding of geese with dried figs to soften their liver. The Poitou white goose is imported from Holland between the 10th and 12th centuries. It is known for the fineness of its flesh, the quality of its feathers and its down (used for comforters and pillows) as well as its skin which is turned into leather, the famous “swan skin”. In 1940, they were around 300 000 Poitou white geese, but the use of synthetic materials was fatal to the industry. Currently, there are only around a hundred Poitou white geese.

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Gallic cows are small, their size rapidly increases following the
Roman conquest. Crosses between different species and better food made this morphological evolution possible. Milk from the cows is processed into cheese and bulls are mainly used for agricultural work. Cows are almost “sacred” to the Romans, as Varro points out: “Italy owes its name to the famous bull Italus, which Hercules pursued from Sicily”. Killing a bull for no reason was punishable by death, they are always offered to the gods. For Roman breeders, the black color of the coat is the most sought after, though the black and white coat does exist. The origins of the Pie Noir breed are unknown, though it is one of the oldest breeds in France. It is similar in size to Gallic cows. After declining for many years, the population is now increasing but remains heavily monitored.

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