Hérens cow fights only in Valais

Customs Valais

Hérens cow fights attract thousands of spectators. They have been a festival in the canton of Valais for around 100 years.

Hérens is the name for a breed of cattle that is mainly kept in the canton of Valais. The Hérens cow is an old, traditional Valais cow breed with a pugnacious temperament. Hérens cows are herd animals that establish a strict hierarchy among themselves when they move up to the alpine pastures in spring.

The Wallis tradition of Eringer cow fights is due to the fact that the leading cow in the herd has to assert herself during the summer in order to be able to return from the alp as the crowned queen in the fall.

Hérens cow alpine parade © Valais Promotion

Hérens cow alpine parade © Valais Promotion

As part of a folk festival, around 3,000 spectators in Grächen watch the spectacle of the 600 kilogram cows facing off against each other. The fights fluctuate between long threatening gestures and wild attacks. During such attacks, the cows thrust themselves through the arena with a roar, while the owners cheer on from the sidelines.

The desire to fight is part of the animals’ normal behavior. This is intended to establish the hierarchy within the herd. If a cow does not want to fight, this is accepted without consequences, i.e. the cows are not forced to do anything.

The Hérens cows owe their existence to the fights, as the Hérens breed is not very interesting economically. Without these traditional fights, the breed would probably no longer exist.

Rules for Hérens cow fights

The cows are led into the ring at the same time and can choose their own opponent. As a rule, animals that have lost three fights are eliminated. If an animal refuses to fight, it is also considered to have lost. The herdsmen in the ring have the task of bringing the herring cows together as ordered by the jury. They also prevent fighting animals from being disturbed by other cows of the same species. The Hérens cow that defeats all its competitors in its category is the winner.

Video of Hérens cow fights with tradition

Hérens cows in Valais fight for ranking…

Schweiz: Kuhkämpfe mit Tradition | Fokus Europa

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