Alpine cattle drives

Depending on how tall the grass has grown, the cattle drives up to the alpine summer pastures take place in either May or June. It is the most enjoyable day of the year for many farming families.

After the alpine dairymen and their animals have travelled to the alpine pastures and the cattle have summered on the alps for eight to twelve weeks, they return to the valley in late summer. Every family decides on their own when the right time for the descent is. This depends on the grass, the available helpers and the weather. Therefore we only know the dates approximately 5 to 1 days in advance.

The animals are assembled and in some cases, an old dairy wagon «Lediwagen» is loaded up with traditional alpine dairy utensils. The bell cows are led by an alpine herdsman wearing a traditional festive costume and carrying over his left shoulder the «Fahreimer», a milking pail with an ornately painted bottom. The three harmonised bells around the necks of the cattle are most likely the only instruments in the world to be played by cows.

Right at the front of the procession are Appenzeller goats supervised by children. Then follow the cows, bullocks and calves and sometimes even a bull. At the end of the procession is the proud owner of the herd accompanied by his faithful «Bläss» (Appenzeller Mountain Dog), which makes sure that none of the animals stray away from the path.

The most important task that the four herdsmen have is to sing and yodel behind the bell cows. They also help ensure that the herd stays together. During the ascent to the alpine pastures, the herdsmen are often offered liquid refreshments in the inns that they pass.

Once the procession has reached the alp, the herdsmen walk in measured paces carrying the bells to the hut. While the cattle are driven onto the meadows they sing a «Rugguusseli» (wordless alpine yodeling songs).

The cattle stay on the alp for eight to ten weeks. The descent from the summer pastures takes place before the 30th of September and takes the same form as the ascent. In contrast to Appenzell Ausserrhoden, where the herdsmen celebrate the descent at the foot of the Säntis mountain on a specific day, the end of the alpine grazing season is celebrated in the Innerrhoden villages with the sounds of cowbells and yodeling on various afternoons in late summer.

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We ask you not to get in the way of the animals and people. Please take photos from the roadside.


Throughout the region on the routes to the alpine grazing areas

Ascents to the alpine pastures

From mid-May to June

Descents from the alpine pastures

Mid-August to the end of September

No news available.