With the sounds of cow bells ringing out over the mountains “alpabzug” or “désalpe”, the return of the cows from their alpine pastures, is quite a sight. This centuries old tradition is celebrated across much of Switzerland between mid-September and mid-October, with cattle fairs, wine festivals and cheese festivals.
Happily grazing the alpine meadows in the summer months, fall sees the cows return to lower pastures ready for the snows of winter. Resulting in a long procession of colorful bovines, passing through the streets of the towns and villages that line the way. Farmers dressed in traditional costume lead their herds into the town squares. Here the cows are judged for their beauty, with a wreath of paper flowers tied to the horns of the winner. If you are thinking of when to visit Switzerland, then this is a great reason to come in the shoulder season.
Particularly impressive are the désalpe in Saint-Cergue, where around 700 cows, goats, donkeys and dogs walk with their shepherds through the village center. Also worth a watch is the Grimentz Eringer cow parade, where the distinctive Eringer cows that spend the summer grazing on Alp Moiry descend via Grimentz, a pretty traditional Valaisan village in the Val d’Anniviers.