With Austrian folk music playing and beer flowing, entire villages throughout the Tirol annually celebrate the homecoming of their cattle.
The wonderful Tirolean tradition of the alpine cattle drive takes place every autumn. Steered back down to the valley by the herdsmen and their entire families, this quirky event rejoices the arrival of the cows with colourful festivals and merriment. This particular festival occurred in the small hamlet of Bartholomäberg – not one of the most spectacular of cattle drives in the Tirol, but splendid all the same.
After spending the summer grazing in the lush alpine pastures, the cows are handsomely decked out with garlands of fresh flowers and foliage. Huge bells on heavy leather collars are hung around the necks of the cows – the jangling and clanging of which can be heard reverberating through out the valley as the procession make their way down to the lower pastures.
It’s not just the cattle that are decorated; many of the herdsman sport hats embellished with alpine flowers and colourful ribbons. It’s a time for celebrating so a fair few bottles of beer will to be seen too!
Once down the mountain, the cattle are guided to a field in the village. Here they can graze for a while and recover a little – herdsmen rest and savour the moment too.
Some of the collars and bells are removed from the animals and placed, like trophies, on the edge of the field for all to see and admire.
Once the break is over it’s all hands on the decks and the process of transporting the cows from field to farm begins. With the cattle disgruntled at being taken away from the succulent green grass, tempers can become a little fraught and frayed at this stage!
The next mission is to get the livestock into the trailers… a lot of shoving, pulling, coaxing and cajoling takes place here. Those big boys do not go willingly!
Finally with the cows being driven back to their farms, it is simply a matter of enjoying the festivities. A time to relax and listen to the music, to enjoy the beer, the schnapps and the wine, and of course, to savour the local mountain cheeses and other specialities from the area.
The cattle drive is perhaps one of the loveliest traditions in the Tirol, and certainly a day to enjoy and remember!