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Swiss Cow Fights

Swiss cow fights - combats de reines - Queen Cow contests

ABOVE: Unaware of the fighting spirit that lurks within every Swiss cow, a tourist risks life and limb in an Alpine meadow.

There's no Waltz of the Toreadors in the Swiss Alps,  and "the running of the bulls" is likely to be the weekend pitter-patter of investment bankers' feet as they sprint to the train that will haul them back to Zürich for Monday's market opening. Still, the Swiss enjoy a bloodless bovine battle as much as the Spaniards love a bullfight, and there are plenty of opportunities to watch cows compete for bragging rights in Canton Valais.

Valaisan cow fights exploit the natural tendency of Hérens and Eringer cows to compete for social dominance. Just as only one wolf can lead the pack, only one cow can be queen of the herd--and she'll do whatever it takes to intimidate the opposition, from mooing nasty threats to locking horns with a challenger and letting push come to shove.

In David's Switzerland Journal, David Pritchard gives a firsthand account of a Swiss cow fight:

"Apparently the poor milking cows are singled out from the herd and bred for the annual fight, keeping their horns and getting more muscular and less fat than most cows. As fights go, it was fairly tame - no blood, no gore, just clashing horns. One cow engages another, they twist about until one gives way, then the loser runs away. Keepers kept sticks on hand to prevent any third parties getting involved. It's a very strange sport. Several cows got bored and ducked under the barriers to go munch on some hillside near the spectators, to our mild consternation."

If you'd like to witness the sport (and perhaps write about it, like a latter-day Hemingway), you'll need to visit Canton Valais from late March through early October. Local contests take place every week or two, with the heavy hitters competing at the Cantonal Championships in Aproz during May and at Martigny's rodeo-style "Combats des Reines" ("Fights of the Queens") during the annual Foire du Valais exposition in October.

For links to more information on Swiss cow fights, including when and where you can see them, follow the links below.

Swiss cow fights - cow contests - Valais Switzerland LEFT: A contestant's view of a Queen Cow competitor.

Web links

Hérens Cattle
Wikipedia's article describes this breed of "small, horned alpine cattle [that] are coloured black, brown, or dark red, often with a lighter stripe along the spine."

Foire du Valais Martigny
The annual fair of Canton Valais includes the "Combats des Reines" ("Fights of the Queens") in Martigny's Roman Amphitheater. (In French and German; translate with Google.)

Cow Sounds
These recorded bovine remarks may not be Swiss, but they'll give you some idea of the language you can expect to hear when Brunhilde meets Bossie.

About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden is a professional travel writer, book author, and editor who focuses on European cities and transportation.

After 4-1/2 years of covering European travel topics for, Durant and Cheryl Imboden co-founded Europe for Visitors in 2001. The site has earned "Best of the Web" honors from Forbes and The Washington Post.

For more information, see About Europe for Visitors, press clippings, and reader testimonials.

Top photo copyright © Switzerland Tourism. Used by permission.