Cagots, a formerly proscribed and outcast race of E. and S. France and N. Spain, whose origin has been ascribed to the Visigoths of Aquitaine, whence the somewhat forced derivation from caos Goths or Gothie dogs. According to other and equally vague traditions, they sprang from the Saracens who lingered behind in France after their defeats by Charles Martel in 732-9; and they were also variously regarded as descendants of leprous crusaders and Jews, and as heretics and sodomites. Banished from all human haunts, their degenerate condition was chiefly attributable to their intermarrying, and to their miserable way of life in the recesses of the Pyrenees; and the belief in their being lepers has become obsolete.
For a considerable period they were doomed to wear emblems of their degradation, and in the churches of Luz and of Lannemezan the separate places of worship formerly assigned to them are still visible. They were not allowed to enter the priesthood, and although efforts for their relief were made in the 18th century, political and social rights were not granted to them till 1793. In the valley of Luchon and in other places where they exist in considerable numbers, they are still considered a distinct class; but at the present day they are generally extinct as a separate race through intermixture with the mass of the population. Their distinguishing deformity consisted in round ears without lobes, and many of them were afflicted with the goitre. They were remarkable for their loquacity, and experience has shown that they are susceptible of considerable improvement. - See Histoire des races maudites de la France et de VEspagne, by Francisque Xavier Michel (2 vols., Paris, 1847).