Oct 10

Hiking in Appenzell-Day 5 | “Under the Arch”

This is a continuation of Ryder-Walker guest Lisa Allen’s account of the Appenzell region of eastern Switzerland. Please also read “Hiking in Appenzell” days 1, 2, 3 and 4

Let us return to the Cattle Show in Appenzell. We have learned about the attire of the participants and established that herd after herd are brought through the town, with white goats led by children often in the lead, under a well-decorated welcoming arch, to the grounds of the show, where the cattle are tied for part of the day, with hay and water available. Many visitors of many nationalities, too, come to admire them, with at least one delighted American!

The cattle are often helped to maintain the proper route by dogs, several Appenzellers included! The sight of these cattle, the brown kind, for which Switzerland is known, their shepherds, the Swiss bells worn around their necks, the cattle dogs and more filled me with even greater excitement to be in such a land, where beauty is so natural and history and tradition so prized and valued.

The men herding the cattle, in full Swiss attire for this very major event, chanted and yodeled as they guided their herds down the streets to the show grounds. In one herd, each cow wore a tall “hat” made of flowers, lovely and artistically detailed. Bulls, who are “as big as houses” were usually assigned a single handler. Their mooing was music to my ears, a symphony of sorts. The family owning each herd hung their huge, signature Swiss bell, with wide and colorful straps, and their shoulder baskets, intricately woven and painted with herding scenery, for all to see. Judges carefully examine the cows and watch them as they are moved by handlers and place floral arrangements on the heads of the winners in various categories.

Vendors sell fresh food, cheese, milk shakes, pastries, and gifts. It is a tradition that on this day only, boys as young as six years old can “enjoy a smoke” and they all did.

In the mid-afternoon, the crowd again lines the streets of the town to watch herd after herd return to their farms in a procession as grand as that of the morning, and once the shepherds have bedded their cattle, the men return to Appenzell for an evening of music and to receive their awards. As is typical of the Swiss, who pride themselves on cleanliness, Appenzell public works officials almost immediately hose the streets to wash away “deposits” left by the cattle.

Never have I seen such a spectacle and it will forever fill my mind’s eye!

Lisa Allen, SE Mass.

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