Processions to and from the alpine pastures

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

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We ask you to enjoy the Alpabzug as a unit and not to get in the way of the animals and people. Please take photos from the roadside.

The animals are assembled and in some cases an old dairy wagon (Lediwagen) is loaded 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 the only instruments in the world to be played by cows.

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

The most important task of the four herdsmen behind the bell cows is to sing and yodel. 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 «Rugguusseli» (wordless alpine yodelling songs).

The cattle stay on the alp for eight to ten weeks. The descent from the summer pastures takes place at the latest by 30 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 single day, the end of the alpine grazing season is celebrated in the Innerrhoden villages with the sounds of cowbells and natural yodelling on many afternoons in late summer.


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

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