Today we headed down to Aproz in Canton Valais to see the Cow Fights which take place here every year. The Combats des Reines, as they are known locally, aren't the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona or the fine art forms of the Spanish Matador. This is Switzerland where things are much more sedate. Each Reine (or Queen) will fight another Reine for dominance of her herd. Weighed in, each cow is allocated a to a weight category much like a boxer is. In the ring, the cows graze the ground and kicks up the dirt. An opponent approaches. And does likewise. Each eyeing the other up suddenly they lock horns. Locked in fierce combat. The rapidity of engagement contrasts with the slowness of the eye-ing up. The determination of the combatants for supremacy is clear in the length of the bouts.
The Hérens breed of cow is unusually aggressive and earnest in its quest to form a social hierachy. The Hérens breed, with their sturdy horns and frankly awesome build, are an unsurprising breed as fighters. Their sheer enornmity and breadth of shoulders is comparable to the size of bulls in other breeds.
After the fights, we decided to take advantage of the excellent weather and walk back to Sion. The walk from Aproz took us around about an hour and, rather than follow the cycle path, we used the church and castle in Sion as guide back to town. Both the Church and Castle are high above the city of Sion and are visible from many miles away in good weather - which makes them excellent beacons for navigating your way back to town.
The Hérens breed of Cow are naturally aggressive and fighting to establish a social hierachy is a natural act. The leaders from this contest, and from contests in other communes/Gemeinde, will go forward to the Cantonale Finals to be held on the 11th of May 2008 in Aproz. Contests are usually held on Sunday - one a week for several weeks before the final itself. The contests start at around 9 in the morning and finish around 5ish. Each bout lasts around 40 minutes but this very much depends on how long the cows spend locking horns.
We left this morning (Sunday) on the 9 am train from Zürich. At Visp (Viege) we change trains to Sion. From right outside Sion train station we took the bus to Aproz. We headed back to Sion, we discovered that (on Sundays) there are only three buses a day back to Sion. Which really means you need to have a car or time your departure to coincide with a bus depature. The SBB have full timetable details.
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Mark Sukhija is a travel and wine blogger, photographer, tourism researcher, hat-touting, white-shirt-wearing, New Zealand fantatic and eclipse chaser. Aside from at least annual visits to New Zealand, Mark has seen eclipses in South Australia (2002), Libya (2006), China (2009) and Queensland (2012). After twelve years in Switzerland, Mark moved back to London in 2012. You can follow Mark on Twitter or Facebook