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Location in France
Location in France
Regions Bourgogne-Franche-Comté , Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Departments Saône-et-Loire , Ain , Jura
Area in km² ~ 4000
Regional cities Louhans , Bourg-en-Bresse , Bletterans
geology Clay plain
relief from 180 to 220 m
Main production Poultry , corn , agriculture
Neighboring regions Revermont , Dombes , Bugey , Mâconnais , Chalonnais
involved arrondissements Louhans , Bourg-en-Bresse , Lons-le-Saunier

The Bresse is a natural landscape and former province in eastern France of almost 4,000 km 2 , stretching from the Dombes in the south to the Doubs river in the north and from the Saône in the west to the Jura in the east. It has an extension of around 100 km in north-south direction and around 40 km in east-west direction. The inhabitants of the landscape are called Bressans (or the female inhabitants of Bressanes ).


Surroundings of Montpont-en-Bresse

In essence, the Bresse is a plain about 180 to 220 m above sea level with a slight incline to the west. The main rivers, all tributaries of the Saône, are the Veyle , Reyssouze and Seille .


The boundaries of the area are

  • in the north of the lower reaches of the Doubs, from the confluence of the Orain to the confluence with the Saône,
  • in the east the western foothills of the Jura,
  • in the west the Saône between the mouths of the Doubs and Chalaronne ,
  • in the south a smooth transition into the Dombes, with the confluence of the Chalaronne in the Saône and the hamlet of Vavre in Saint-Martin-du-Mont as corner points.

In connection with the controlled designation of origin for the Bresse chickens , the exact boundaries of the Bresse were determined by a court judgment of the civil court of Bourg-en-Bresse on December 22, 1936.


The geographical term Bresse has three parts:


The Bresse de l'Ain fell to the House of Savoy in 1272 , and Bâgé-le-Châtel was the capital and the economic center. The area repeatedly aroused the desires of the French kings who wanted to expand their territory. The location of Bâgé, close to the border with the French kingdom, led to the strengthening of Bourg-en-Bresse, which became the provincial capital at the beginning of the 15th century.

The Bresse bourgignonne belonged to the Duchy of Burgundy , but was also a border area to the Free County of Burgundy . The area suffered from the armed conflicts and remained a poor region with a small farming population. Only Louhans achieved some prosperity as a free city.

On January 17, 1601, the area, which was difficult to defend because of the flat topography, was ceded to France in the Treaty of Lyon , whereupon it formed a separate administrative area together with the province of Bugey . Today the Bresse landscape is mainly part of the Burgundy region and some eastern areas of the Jura department .


Geological map of the Bresse, Saône and Rhone valleys according to Léon Paul Choffat

Essentially, the Bresse is a tectonic depression , called the Bressegraben , which is oriented in a north-south direction and lies between the Jura and the northern foothills of the Massif Central . The southern border is formed by the Ain , the northern border is at the city of Gray . The extension in the east-west direction is around 60 km in the northern part, and around 45 km in the central and southern part. The north-south extension is around 190 km.

The Bresse is almost exclusively drained by the Saône, which runs in a north-south direction and has an extremely gentle slope. Two deep tectonic thresholds divide the Bresse into three areas: the north-western Bresse chalonnaise , the central Bresse bourguignonne and the southern Bresse savoyarde . The Bresse is the result of a number of events that can be divided into two main phases:

  • The folding of the Alps brought strong pressure from the southeast, which led to the folding of the Jura Mountains during the Oligocene and Miocene . The central massif, in turn, withstood the pressure of the folding of the Alps and the valley of the Saône trench was created, in which lakes or a lake formed, the so-called Bressee (Lac Bressan) . The Rhine and Loire poured into this lake, which in turn was drained by a runoff to the southeast. It is assumed that the lake was only shallow and was interrupted by headlands and therefore hardly had a uniform, closed water surface, but rather resembled a lake plateau.
  • The lake silted up more and more due to the debris that the tributaries brought with them and finally dried up. The soil of the Bresse is thus mainly formed by lacustric deposits from the Pliocene . Loam is the dominant component; some silicon is contained, but in such small amounts that it does not impair the impermeability of the soil. The mostly fine topsoil consists mainly of clay-silicon or pisé and often has a yellow or reddish color, with few stones or limestone .

The Bresse is therefore an alluvial land area with loamy soils and impermeable marl . The impermeability to water makes the soil fertile, difficult to work on, suitable as grass and pasture land and for softwood . Although limestone is almost completely absent, ponds and ponds often contain a type of limestone that does not seem to play a role in the vegetation. In places, the bedrock penetrates to the surface and the granite base becomes visible.


The main focus of employment in the Bresse is agriculture and the associated forms of production (mills, animal feed companies, etc.). The Bresse chickens are a particular focus, around 300 breeders raise and fatten 1.2 million free-range poultry every year . Around 4,000 other companies operate successfully in the Bresse. They mainly focus on the areas of food, metallurgy , metal construction , mechanics, transportation and health. Heavy industry and nuclear power plants are not found in the Bresse, but the tourist infrastructure is also poorly developed.

Society and culture

The Bresse is a strongly agricultural region. Some of the farms are far away from the rather small villages, the landscape is characterized by rolling hills in the east and the wide Saône plain in the west, criss-crossed by ponds, small lakes, trees and meadows. Accordingly, the population is more traditionally inclined, clinging to the old values ​​and cultivating direct democratic instruments at the local level.

The Bressans were called “yellow bellies” by their neighbors, probably because the poor people ate corn instead of grain from an early age. The Gaudes (roasted cornmeal made from unpeeled corn, mixed with milk) were considered the real national dish of the locals. The cultivation of maize was and is an important agricultural branch, as maize is essential for feeding the Bresse chickens .

Places and sights

See also

Web links

Commons : Bresse  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Poulet de Bresse at INAO, L'Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité .
  2. The Rhinegraben - Bresse Graben System, European Crust and Topo Europe Verena Gennes, University of Aachen, 2013, page 5 (English)