The fiery Hérens cow breed is a symbol for the Swiss canton of Valais, where bovine fights have become a traditional spring attraction. (SRF, swissinfo.ch)
The Hérens cow, found in the Swiss canton of Valais and in Italy's Aosta valley, is known for its ability to move on difficult terrain, its speed, and its combative temperament.
The Hérens' natural fighting instinct has led to the organisation of official ring cow fights that attract numerous breeders and spectators.
Divided into age and weight categories, the cows are freed into a ring where they choose their opponent. The rules are simple: the ones who run away or lose three consecutive fights are out of the competition. The animals’ welfare is a priority as they are overseen by five referees, veterinarians, and the animal owners.
The highlight of the Valais ring cow fight season is the national championship, held each May in the town of Aproz. There, the winner of the first four categories is crowned "Queen of Queens".
On Sunday, 120 Hérens cows fought for the championship. Despite the cool weather, the spectacle attracted more than 10,000 spectators. This year’s queen was a cow named Clairon, who won in the final fight against an opponent who weighed 200 kilograms less than her.
The breeding and preservation of this unique Alpine cow breed is of great importance for Valais, from an agricultural, cultural and touristic point of view. In danger of dying out in the 1950s as farmers moved out of the area, some say the traditional cow fight contributed to the breed’s survival.
The winning animals achieve high selling prices. These cow fights are now a big tourist attraction in Valais and, for many farmers, a reason to keep raising Hérens cows.