Holy Cow

May 18, 2012

Holy Cow

May 18, 2012
Posted in: Totally Random | Reading Time: 2 minutes

So here I was, Thursday afternoon, Ascension Day, where everyone is off in Switzerland, riding my bike through Bière on my way to Rolle, when I noticed a large field of cows wearing unusually large bells and making a large racket. Naturally, I stopped.  It looked a lot like The Fête Desalps, a celebration that happens in September, where the cows are moved off the mountains and into the lower warmer areas for the winter. The Fête Desalps begins with positioning two of the largest cows against each other to butt heads for the title of "Queen of the Parade," who will be the cow to wear the fancy floral headdress.

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As the cows waited in the pasture wearing their fancy bells, the entire scene looked very similar to the Fête Desalps, only this time the cows were heading into --ascending, if you will-- the High Alps for the summer. I guess Jesus wasn't the only ascension happening that day.  The festivities are much smaller in scale than the autumn Fête, but none-the-less, the bells are worn by all cows and the headdress is given to a selected Queen.

"Does this floral hat make my butt look big?"

This Queen does not look too happy about her fancy set up. I stayed for a while and took some video. The cows were generally excited. I couldn't tell if they were happy or nervous or a little bit of both as they literally ran around the pasture, mingling excitedly. When I saw two of them head off each other, I nearly peed the chamois in my bike shorts. Suddenly the single rope fence didn't feel so protecting so I high-tailed it out of there. Enjoy the three-minute video of the cows waiting for their parade to begin.

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11 comments on “Holy Cow”

  1. The music made it seem much more festive, but I was wondering... were the cows making music too? I hope so, otherwise what a waste of some truly impressive bells!

  2. @everyone: no they don't make the cows wear them all the time! just for the Fete. they do wear bells. but these are huge and noisy. and yes, they clanged loudly. i left the volume on with the music and you can hear the bells a bit. i think the big bells really make the cows excited or agitated or they're conditioned to know that it means they move up to the mountains. it's pretty cool.

    for the MOST part, swiss cows are really well taken care of. you do have the occasional idiot farmer who doesn't put as much love into them as others but most of the farmers here are really animal concientious and take excellent care of them. plus there are laws governing how many they can have etc. and there's even some groups to prohibit the cutting of their horns which they used to do for making room and having more cows (because the horns damage the cows in small areas)... but there's lots of animal rights laws here and while it's not perfect, it's better than in most countries.

  3. Imagine that horrid clanging right under your chin every time you took a bite of food. Maybe there's a new diet plan there - you could market huge bells for people to wear. That would cut down on eating and probably a lot of unnecessary speech.

    We're guessing the excitement is partially conditioning about the move and partially the nearby presence of that handsome bull. He was clearly bellowing his interest and frustration. What lady cow could help strutting her stuff a little in response?

    Jed & Abby

  4. I would assume Ascension Day has been used for hundreds of years (possibly a thousand) as the "key" to tell the farmers it's time to take the cows up to the higher pastures. But that's just a guess. BTW, cows aren't super bright, so if you ever feel like you are going to be 'charged' by cows, wave your arms and shout at them - they will turn away from that. Being herbivores, they can be easily 'threatened'. Just saying... And no, that floral hat does NOT make her butt look big. The collar and ginormous bell have a very slimming effect! 😉

    -Dr. Liz

  5. Wow! What amazing pictures - and video! (although I have to say, I would have gotten really excited and closer to watch the fight properly - hee! hee! Maybe I'm just a fight whore). The big bells do look a bit uncomfortable but I'm sure a temporary thing won't hurt them - for such a quaint tradition! 😉 Beautiful colours with the flora headdress. You know, I just love cows, People always go on about Honey being a "horse" but I actually think she looks much more like a baby calf, with big floppy ears and big eyes and bulbous nose and long, pink tongue! 😛

    Hsin-Yi

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