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We had a thorough appreciation of the saying  “Until the cows come home” at the annual Fête Désalpe.  Désalpe is a unique tradition of Switzerland (and parts of France) when the herds of cows that spent summer on the alpine pasture return to the valley for winter.  The word Désalpe is a contraction of “Déscente d’un Alpage.”

The event typically takes place between mid-September to mid-October, the weekend we went was October 1. There were at least three other similar festivals in different locations on that weekend.  We went to see the event at Saint-Cergue, a mountain village located between Geneva and Lausanne in the Jura mountain range (strictly speaking not part of the Alps).

Here are videos of two herds arriving at the village  – “passage des troupeaux”. This herd had 140 animals. As you will hear it, the cowbells were deafening. As Christopher Walken said, “Gotta have more cowbell”.

There were 10 herds in total.  The event started at 0830.

More cowbell !

Some of the leading animals wore a head-dress of flowers which fluttered wildly as they walked. I believe they do not wear the big cowbells normally.

“What are you staring at ?”

The herd was up close and personal – we could feel their body warmth as they marched past us. Yes, that was shit on the ground, plenty of it and all over the place. The smell was strong, we could not understand how people could buy sandwiches and soup, and ate their lunch in the middle of all this.

In fact, we believe there is one advantage of getting there early. Before the first herd arrived, everything must have been green and pristine, the air fresh and crispy.  But after the passage of a few herds,  the route was covered with it and there was no escape from the stench.

Herdsmen wearing traditional black short-sleeved outfit.

This herd had 2 newborn calves that were carted around on a tractor at the front of the herd.One of the herds ran through the town briskly.  The MC was warning people about their kids being knocked over by the moving animals.

They also had a couple of donkeys at St-Cergue.  I heard that at other locations, pigs and sheep are also herded along with cows.

Beside displaying farm animals, the festival also provided traditional music and dances.

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One Comment

  1. can’t believe i missed this!


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