Festive event brings cattle home

Tradition starts Viehscheid/Almabtrieb in Allgäu region


Story and photos by Kevin S. Abel

What better way to celebrate the end of summer of wondering and foraging
in the Allgäu Region of Southern Germany than with festivals including 30,000 of your fellow mountain travelers.

Having spent summer in the mountains grazing in the Alpine meadows, cattle are brought back down into the valleys in September before winter sets in, this is known as the Viehscheid or Almabtrieb.

Bells sounds can be heard throughout the valleys to the delight of all locals and guests as herders and cattle make their way down.

During the Viehscheid around 30,000 head of cattle leave the lush mountain pastures of the Allgäu Region and are herded into the valley to the Scheidplatz and sorted before being returned to their owners.

It all starts in the spring when herders promise owners of cattle herds they will return all of their animals to them in good health in the fall.

These herders take on a great amount of responsibility and drive the cattle up into the mountains shortly after the snowmelt to fatten them up throughout the 100 days of summer.

The time spent up in the mountains is not always easy for the herders. They often live in very simple conditions and lead extremely lonely lives.

29065138194_6ba388869e_kIf all has gone well, the leading cow is elaborately decorated. While all of the cattle are decorated with an elaborate bells and collars, only the  leading cow, or ‘Kranz’, or ‘Kranzkuh’ in Bavaria, is decorated with a wreath.

The wreath is fashioned from pine boughs, alpine flowers, bearing a cross and a mirror. All the other cows wear huge bells to ward off any evil demons the cattle might encounter on their way back down into the valley.

It’s the traditional way of giving thanks for good grazing season without losses. The Allgäu is a region in Swabia in southern Germany. It covers the south of Bavarian Swabia, southeastern Baden-Württemberg and parts of Austria.

The region stretches from the pre-alpine lands up to the Alps.

In recent years, the Viehscheid hasbecome increasingly popular and vary in the number of cattle and tourists.cattle-flickr

The average size of the gather is approximately 100-300 head of cattle per

It’s advisable to get to the Viehscheid early to get a good view. However, depending on the weather, it may also be delayed.

Published in the Stuttgart Citizen Sept. 22, 2016

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360 VR Images produced for this story

Cattle graze in the high meadows of the Allgäu region before the start of the Viehscheid.
Cattle are herded in the valley at the Scheidplatz and sorted before being returned to their owners during the Viehscheid.