Bovine battle to decide queen of Alps

A boy anxiously looks on as a cow from his family's herd goes into battle Keystone Archive

The strength of the Hérens cow will be put to the test in Sion on May 24 in the "Battle of the Queens". Well-suited for grazing on the steep slopes of the Alps in canton Valais, the short and stocky breed is known for its combative character.

This content was published on May 22, 2001 - 08:14

After a series of battles among the cows belonging to villages across canton Valais, the winners will compete at the cantonal finals in Sion to become queen. The cow fights are always a top draw due to the prestige the winner bestows on its owner and village.

The organisers of the Sion event are planning many activities for young and old alike, but the main attraction remains the traditional cow fight. The crowds cheer on the cows as they lock horns and try to force each other to retreat.

The ultimate winner is declared queen, and its owner and village is given bragging rights for a year.

The cows competing in Sion are already the queens of their respective herds. The honour gives the beast the right to the best bit of pasture on the Alp and when it decides to graze elsewhere, the other animals are expected to follow.

The milk of the Hérens cow, which originated in canton Valais' Hérens Valley, is particularly rich in protein even though it doesn't produce as much as other breeds common to Switzerland.

The race was in danger of dying out in the 1950s due to a large exodus of farmers from the Valais Alps. It's claimed that the traditional cow fight has contributed to its survival.


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