Alpine Cows. Image: James Petts via Flickr, under CC BY-SA 2.0.
The Swiss Federal Office of Culture has submitted a proposal to UNESCO to add the country’s annual cattle herding tradition to the list of intangible cultural heritage.
Between May and June every year, more than 250,000 cows are herded from the valleys up into mountain pastures. The cows will climb nearly 600m over 16km on average on the way up to the grazing land in the mountains, before returning to the valleys in autumn. It is believed that these high quality pastures are responsible for ensuring the speciality of Swiss cheese.
One of the reasons for the proposal is that the herding is an opportunity for traditions to be passed down between generations. Cultural songs and long-standing cheese-making techniques are handed down at during these months.
Furthermore, these events have become iconic processions that inspire tourism. The parade of cows wearing bells and garlands accompanied by farmers wearing traditional outfits is a spectacle in itself.
If UNESCO accept the proposal in 2023, it would be the country’s 7th entry on the list. The craftsmanship of watchmaking, avalanche management, and the humourous Basel Carnival are just some of Switzerland’s intangible cultural heritage traditions that are recognised by UNESCO.