The Canton of Valais (Wallis) is famous for its ski slopes, thermal baths, and its climate that lets wine thrive and apricots grow. Come spring though the fever of cow fighting not only grabs a hold of the beasts but farmers and spectators alike - even TV camera teams - national and international - flock to the events.
No matter which breed of Swiss cows, they are naturally territorial and love a good cow fight. They lock their wicked looking horns to determine who takes the lead in the pack as soon as they are released from the barn where they spend long winter months.
However, the Hérens cows (or Eringer in German), named after the Val d'Hérens, are a particularly feisty and temperamental breed. The dark chocolaty colored cows seem to love the battle for the prestigious title "Queen of Queens" in the Combat des Reines (fight of the Queens").
Unlike the running with or fighting of the bulls, the Queens of Hérens do their battle in a queenly manner. Although the muscular and quick tempered beasts paw the ground with downcast heads, a dangerous look in their eyes while mooing nasty threads before they lock their horns, the actual bovine battle is mostly push and shove with little harm - if at all - to the animal. The looser quickly runs away as soon she realizes that there's no winning the battle with her opponent (who says cows are not intelligent?).
The cows are neither trained nor do they get prepared for the battle. They are brought into the ring in different categories (according to weight and age) where they choose their opponent themselves.
The joyful and entertaining cattle fights attract tens of thousands of spectators each year. The tournaments take place in various villages from spring to fall and in the end, the winner will be crowned "Queen of the Queens". The prize is not only a humongous ornate cowbell; the offspring fetches whooping prices at auctions.
Cow fighting starts in the fall and ends in May (with a winter break) with the national final in Aproz where the crowning of the "Queen of Queens" takes place.
|22 March 2015||Aproz||Start at 9am|
|29 March 2015||Raron / Goler||Start at 9am|
|06 April 2015||Raron / Goler||Start at 9am|
|12 April 2015||Martigny||Start at 9am at the Amphithéâtre|
|18 - 19 April 2015||Le Châble||Start at 9am|
|26 April 2015||Mission (near Ayer/Val Anniviers)||Start at 9am|
|3 May 2015||Les Haudères||Start at 9am|
|9 - 10 May 2015||Aproz||National Final. Start at 9am.|
|02 August 2015||Vispterminen||Start at 9:30am|
|9 August 2015||Pralong/Val des Dix||L'Espace Mont-Blanc, start at 10pm|
|27 September 2015||Raron / Goler||Start at 9am|
|04 October 2015||Martigny (Foire VS)||At the Amphithéâtre. Start at 9am|
Do check dates before you go on the website of the National Swiss Federation of "La race d'Hérens" in case they have to change dates if the weather does not cooperate.
Images courtesy of Dominique Schreckling
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