This harness race highlights the Boulonnais, a breed of draft horses from Pas-de-Calais (illustration).


M.Libert / 20 Minutes

  • Abandoned in 2012, the draft horse team race "The Fish Route" will be reborn next September.

  • Around twenty teams will compete over the 300 km that connect Boulogne-sur-Mer to Paris.

  • This route was used between the 13th and 19th centuries to deliver fresh fish to the capital.

Historical and living heritage.

At the end of next September, there will be a way to meet funny vehicles on the small roads between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Paris.

Passionate about horses, Thibaut Mathieu has indeed decided to give a second or even a third life to the draft horse team relay race "The Fish Route".

In 24 hours, several crews will follow the exact route that was taken, between the 13th and 19th centuries, by the teams responsible for delivering fresh fish to the capital.

For hundreds of years, carts pulled by draft horses have covered, in less than 24 hours, the 300 km that separated the port city of Boulogne-sur-Mer from Paris to bring fresh fish to the stalls on Boulevard Poissonnière and Les Halles.

The use of this means of transport was abandoned with the arrival of the railway, mid-19th century.

From then on, the future of the draft horse was uncertain until it was put back in the spotlight in 1991. The Syndicat hippique boulonnais had launched a challenge to other French and European draft breeds to put their animals in competition on the historic route of the fish route.

A success for 20 years until the abandonment in 2012

Until 2012, the race was organized every two years and had an unmistakable success.

During the last editions, between 300,000 and 400,000 spectators spread out along the course attended the passage of the crews.

However, the adventure ended for questions of financing 20 years after its creation.

Then, in September 2019, a horse enthusiast discovered the history of this race: “Without thinking for a long time, I told two friends […] who also love horses.

In a few days, everything was decided ”, explains the president of the new association“ La route du poisson ”, Thibaut Mathieu.

He contacted alumni of the original edition and put his project to restart the race on track.

His idea: to prevent the disappearance of this living heritage that is the draft horse, but also "to promote equestrian sport, fishing, know-how, heritage, rurality, culture, gastronomy and local products ".

Just that.

An ambition that hit the mark, the organizer having managed to mobilize institutions and participants.

Twenty teams, 1,400 competitors, 500 horses, 20 towns crossed, 6,000 volunteers ...

Concretely, the event will take place from September 20 to 26.

The harness race itself will start from Boulogne on the 25th at 6.45am.

The fastest crew is expected the next day, around 8am, at Chantilly.

The week before the start, there will be many activities in Le Touquet, in particular maneuverability or traction tests.

The stables will also be open to admire the horses.


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