The Climbing Cows of Adelboden | Posted: 14 January 2014
See the amazing sight of the climbing cows of Adelboden on a self guided walking holiday in Switzerland
See the amazing sight of the climbing cows of Adelboden on a self guided walking holiday in Switzerland
See the amazing sight of the climbing cows of Adelboden on a self guided walking holiday in the Bernese Oberland

It has to be seen to be believed. Herds of cows on their annual climb up a narrow rocky path so that they can reach the lush grass of their summer pastures.

Forget herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plains of the Serengeti: one of nature’s greatest migrations can be seen much closer to home – in the valleys and mountains of Switzerland.

At the start of summer, noisy, yet sedate, parades take place right across the Alps as herds of cattle adorned with colourful headdresses are returned to the high pastures to take advantage of the lush, sweet grass – and one of the most spectacular of these takes place in the picturesque village of Adelboden in the heart of the spectacular Bernese Oberland.

With bells clanging and flowers in their hair, they set off through the village as onlookers gather to watch. Seemingly unhurried, there is still an air of expectation about them as they low excitedly in anticipation of the climb ahead – and its resultant grass-tronomic feast.

The exact date is not known until the local farmers gather together at a Bergrechnung (an informal gathering) to discuss the weather forecast and to confirm that summer is about to begin (normally around the end of June). With a settled outlook ahead, the time and date can be announced and the cows readied for their walk to the flower-filled meadows where they will spend the summer.

Related Holidays

The Bernese Oberland

Time your walk through the Bernese Oberland to coincide with the annual cattle migration and you could witness the climbing cows of Adelboden yourself! However, whatever time of year you choose, the scenery makes for truly spectacular walking, with well signposted paths leading beneath majestic snow-capped peaks.

More about our walking holidays in the Bernese Oberland >

But not for Alpine cows a gentle stroll down quiet, country lanes! No, these hardy mountain girls are up early in the morning ready for a steep climb along a narrow rocky path – the Alpaufzug – that zigzags 600 metres up the side of a mountain to reach the Engstligenalp plateau.

It’s a remarkable achievement and a surprising sight – particularly if you happen to be passing and come across them unexpectedly. It’s not often you meet 350 cows in floral hats and large, clanging bells on a walk up a mountain.

Many people, however, come here specially to join the traditionally dressed stockmen and women as they guide the cows on their climb, though you may prefer to watch their progress from high above in the cable car, joining the calves which are spared the long walk. On arrival at Engstligenalp, you can relax over a special breakfast at one of the local restaurants – while the cows enjoy a rest and a well-earned munch on the dew-wet grass.

After approximately 70 days, it’s time to leave these idyllic mountain pastures behind, before colder weather arrives to announce the onset of winter once more, and head back down to the warmth and shelter of the valley.

Images © Photopress, Adelboden.

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