As Autumn strides in and you begin to see your breath in Switzerland, the cows are ceremoniously led down the alpine peaks to the warmer towns below.
Switzerland’s cow culture extends far back into history. The land of milk, chocolate, and cheese
In various small towns throughout Switzerland, hoards of people gather to watch the cows descend. First, traditional Alphorn players serenade the audience before the cows’ arrival. People of all ages line up along the street sides to get a good view and listen patiently to the musicians holding their impossibly long instruments. (Antoine told me they are dissembled in order to be put back into the house.)
Soon after, a group of people dressed in traditional Swiss garb lead the pack of cows through the streets. They have various processions with different groups of cows throughout the day. People excitedly take photos of the cows
The farmers are proud of their cows so they invest good money into their bells. One bell can go for more than $1k! They ring so loudly that some parents had prepared by putting earplugs in their children’s ears. Everyone gathered together excitedly, but hearing the loud clanking of bells and seeing the diarrhea of the passing cows made me feel bad for them. After months out at peaceful pasture, this must have been a jolt to their senses.
During the warmer months, cows wear small bells up in the Alps so that farmers can easily find them. However, during the procession downward, they are given much bigger, ceremonious bells. They are so heavy that I could barely pick one up! The bells are strapped to the cows’ neck, in close proximity to their ears, and unfortunately, a recent study has shown that this can significantly damage their hearing.
“According to the researchers, it’s possible that thousands of cows – whose hearing is more sensitive than a human’s – have already been made deaf through wearing a bell.” A recent study found that “some of the 100 examined cows were unresponsive to sound.”
Sometimes maintaining tradition is not always in the best interest of positive progress. While the cows did seem distressed by the crowd of people, the bells are the only thing that truly pose a danger to them. So why not save the farmer a couple bucks and remove them?
Besides the cows and their bells, you’ll find lots of traditional Swiss food in stands all around the festival. One of their