The Glories of the West: Viehscheid im Allgäu

More from those “culture-less” Europeans! A traditional celebration of transhumance, the Viehscheid (cattle drive) in Allgäu (also celebrated elsewhere in Bavaria and throughout the Alps, including Austria and Switzerland) is a centuries-old tradition that celebrates the ceremonial return of the cattle (and their herders), in the Autumn, from the mountain pastures where they have spent the summer months, grazing on the rich grass of the Alpine meadows.

Transhumance, form of semi-nomadic pastoralism, is organized around the migration of livestock (such as cattle, goats, or sheep) between mountain pastures in warm seasons and lower altitudes the rest of the year. The herd-folk, who accompany their cattle to higher elevations during the warm season, typically have permanent homes, and families, in the valleys. The return of the cattle and their herders is therefore an occasion of great celebration, both for those who have been away all summer, and those who have been anxiously awaiting their return in the valleys below!

In the Allgäu region, no less than 30,000 cows and calves spend their summer in the mountains, before being driven down into the valley with great ceremony and celebration in the Autumn. It is time when all dress in their best trachten (traditional clothing, in its original form dating to the mid-to-late 1800s, and nowadays typically worn on festive occasions), and even the cattle are bedecked with bells, flowers, and greenery to celebrate the occasion!

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