Switzerland is still foreign to me in many ways. I am often worried about breaking an odd law (naked hiking was recently banned!) or forgetting to pay my taxes (four times a year), but then I’ll stumble upon something that reminds me of home. Of Bakersfield.
Which is what occurred Sunday when we attended the rodeo in Sion.
The Race d’Hérens is a springtime competition held to designate the queen of the herd before cows are led to the mountains to graze for the summer. The long-running tradition highlights these special, horned female cows that are native to Switzerland.
During the competition, les cow-boy parade their cows around a ring and encourage them to fight other cows. Sometimes eight or ten cows are in the ring at once–coupled off in fights. When the cows flare their nostrils and kick up dirt with their hooves, the crowd goes wild.
And like a ballroom dance competition, the judges call out the cows that are not asserting their dominance to be removed from the ring. A queen is selected every round and then the queens face off, until there is one true winner. La reine.
The cowboys prevent the cows from really hurting each other. (And if you think about traditional bullfighting where a bull is injured or killed, a Swiss rodeo is tame.) The day is really about making friends, trying local cuisine and showing off your livestock. Pure Bakersfield.
The Swiss were in full force at the rodeo–drinking wine, eating raclette by the pound, playing the accordion, singing folk songs and dancing the polka. We soaked up the sunshine and did our best to blend in with La Suisse.
Suffice to say, you won’t find this in a Swiss guidebook and you won’t run into tourists. I highly recommend making the trip if you are through Switzerland in early May.
I hope you are enjoying some sunshine wherever you are. For now, a few links:
- America’s Biggest Rodeos (The Travel Channel)
- The ultimate Swiss cowboy accessory
- Did you catch the Bakersfield reference in this week’s Mad Men episode?