Combats des Reines – The Fighting Cows of the Valais
These rare Hérens cattle originated in the Val d’Hérens which is off the Rhone Valley near Sion and can now be found throughout the Valais. The cows are naturally competitive as they establish the ‘lead’ cow or queen of the herd when they first leave their winter quarters and move outside onto fields in the valleys in the spring.
Taking advantage of this fighting spirit the local communes organise a series of tournaments where individual animals, divided into leagues by age and weight, have brief fights to establish the champions. The first challenges take place at the end of March or the beginning of April, and culminate at the end of May in the final, where the queen of the herds is crowned.
From June onwards as the cows go up the mountain to their summer pastures there is another series of contests where locals and visitors alike gather on the high pastures to watch the cows sparring. Verbier hosts its own competition during the summer up at Plannards and the commune even provide special buses for those who don’t wish to walk that far!
It’s a festival atmosphere with stalls, demonstrations of various skills and, most important of all, a communal barbecue and bar tent!