Switzerland’s Cow Combats

Spain has its bullfights with toreros whose style and bravery even Ernest Hemingway, Federico García Lorca and Pablo Picasso admired. In the Americas, it’s rodeo and the cowboys. Even in the Roman Empire, gladiators used to entertain their audiences with fightings against bulls.

Here in Switzerland, we too have some kind of bovine fightings.

Cows battle it out at the National Herens Cow Festival on May 6, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.

Everything is a bit smaller than abroad. And our fightings aren’t as athletic as a rodeo. They aren’t as heroic as in Spain. Actually, there is no torero at all. We prefer to stay neutral and not to interfere with the fighters. Certainly our fightings aren’t as bloody as the Roman gladiator Circuses. And there is yet another important difference: the fightings involve cows, not bulls.

The winner of a duel is the cow who does not back off.

We’re talking about cow fighting. Fortunately, there usually is no bloodshed in Swiss cow combats. During the combat, the cows push forehead against forehead. The winner of a duel is she who does not back off. Typically Swiss. The one cow remaining undefeated after all duels is the queen.

The fighters are Hérens cows named after the alpine Val d’Hérens region of Switzerland. The bovines aren’t as large and ferocious as Murciélago, the famous Spanish fighting bull. But the black coloured animals are very muscular and have short and broad heads sporting strong horns. And the cattle breed is known for the high aggression of its females. In a herd, the cows instinctively challenge each other to establish a hierarchy.

The cows instinctively challenge each other to establish a hierarchy.

In spring, the cows fight for the title of the Queen of Cows Combat (french: Combat de Reines) at the National Hérens Cow Festival in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais. This year was the first with international attendance from the neighbouring Mont Blanc region of Italy and France.

This year’s winner and queen of the queens is cow Schakira.

Spectators watch cow fightings for the title of the Queen of Cows Combat at the National Hérens Cow Festival on May 5, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
Spectators watch cow fightings for the title of the Queen of Cows Combat at the National Hérens Cow Festival on May 5, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
Cows wait for their fights at the National Herens Cow Festival on May 6, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
An owner reacts to his cow before a cow combat at the National Hérens Cow Festival on May 5, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
An owner reacts to his cow before a cow combat at the National Hérens Cow Festival on May 5, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
An owner holds his cow at the National Hérens Cow Festival on May 5, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
Cows battle it out for the title of the Queen on May 5, 2012 in the alpine village Aproz in Switzerland.
Cows battle it out for the title of the Queen on May 5, 2012 in the alpine village Aproz in Switzerland.
Cows fight for the title of the Queen of Cows Combat at the National Herens Cow Festival on May 6, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
Spectators react during a cow fight for the title of the Queen of Cows Combat at the National Hérens Cow Festival on May 5, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
Spectators react during a cow fight for the title of the Queen of Cows Combat at the National Hérens Cow Festival on May 5, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
A cow retreats at a fight for the title of the Queen of Cows fights at the National Herens Cow Festival on May 6, 2012 in Aproz, Switzerland. The winner of a duel is she who does not back off. The one cow remaining undefeated after all duels is the queen.
A beater holds back a cow at the annual cow fights on May 6, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
A cow bleeds from the nose after a fight for the title of the Queen of Cows at the National Herens Cow Festival on May 6, 2012 in Aproz, Switzerland.
A breeder and his son examine their cow after a fight for the title of the Queen of Cows at the National Herens Cow Festival on May 6, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
A breeder rewards his cow with a piece of bread after a fight for the title of the Queen of Cows at the National Herens Cow Festival on May 6, 2012 in Aproz, Switzerland.
Cows fight for the title of the Queen of Cows Combat at the National Hérens Cow Festival on May 5, 2012 in Aproz in the Alpine Canton of Valais, Switzerland.
A breeder hugs his cow after winning a fighting at the National Hérens Cow Festival on May 5, 2012 in Aproz, Switzerland.

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