Cow Fighting in the Valais Region of Switzerland
Cow Fighting in Valais, Switzerland; photo Francois Perraudin, courtesy: Valais Tourism

We love sending families to places they’ve never heard of, or destinations that offer unexpected pleasures and treasures. And having spent a lot of time in Indonesia, where cattle battles are a local sport, the upcoming cow fighting season in Switzerland caught our eye.

Yes, in Sumatra, Indonesia, farmers enjoy bringing their feistiest water buffalo out into the town field each weekend and letting them have a go at each other. While onlookers cheer wildly (no, we didn’t cheer, we just watched in amazement), the cattle bang into each other with their horns, or butt bottoms or chase their opponent around.  Eventually, one bull will get tired of the whole thing and just walk away, and the other one is declared a winner. While a few did get banged up, in the 20 or so bouts that we saw, none were badly hurt.

I can’t speak for the cattle of Switzerland, but their tourism office says the region of Valais is proud to possess a bovine breed that is unique in the world: the Herens breed. According to them, “This robust cow has the particularity of being a natural fighter in order to establish the hierarchy within the herd. These combats take place without any provocation. In springtime when the animals are released from their winter barns and during the journey up to the alpine pastures, they challenge each other to see who will be their leader.”

So, you see, the ever neutral Swiss have a rational explanation for this sport.

Fortunately, it’s a victimless one — after locking horns, the first cow to turn his head away loses. Consequently, it has become a big tourist attraction, with officially scheduled “battles” between late March and October throughout the region. Of course, there are many upcoming opportunities for you and the kids to watch one of these matches in person.  Here’s a sneak preview of it from YouTube:



Planning your Valais, Switzerland Getaway

Valais lies in the southwest of Switzerland, stretching for about 100 miles along the narrow ribbon of the Rhone Valley between Lake Geneva and the Rhone Glacier. It’s most famous for the winter resorts of Zermatt and Verbier, and the Matterhorn is simply gorgeous at any time of year. The wide range of mountain holiday accommodations, from hiking towns with B&Bs to cottage communities or rural farmstays, is unusual.

According to their tourist office, in the non-snow season, you can choose between fashionable sports and recreation resorts, places with big swimming pools and waterparks, golf-focused resorts in the countryside, or yoga and wellness spas. Our favorite part of this is that since 1996, Swiss holiday resorts that are particularly suited to family holidays have been able to apply for the “Families Welcome” label.

In Switzerland, a “Families Welcome” label means that a resort or hotel property has made special efforts to tailor their programs to the needs and desires of children, their parents and other people who may accompany them. To be eligible, each place has to satisfy a number of conditions and criteria laid down by an independent quality control commission, presided over by the Swiss Tourism Federation.

To help you plan your upcoming trip to admire the bovines of the Valais region, here is an Official List of the Families Welcome places available in this area. The helpful folks at the hotel metasearch engine, did some research at our request, and found that double room hotel prices shown to their users are fairly stable throughout the six-month cow fighting season, with US$198/night in May being the least expensive. (July, at US$240/night, was the highest rate.) Given that you can save up to $42 per night and that cows are more frisky in spring, we say May is the time to go.

For more information about cowfighting, visit Valais Tourism; for more sightseeing in Switzerland with the family, visit the Swiss Tourism Federation Website.

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