Monday, June 15, 2009

A Mooving Experience

You just never know what those zany Swiss will do for entertainment.
Furie and Cigale eye each other warily, take a step forward and lock horns.

It's an ancient ritual, one that plays out each summer high in the Swiss Alps, as cows battle to be queen and villagers come to watch.

Judges record every fight as spectators sit on the surrounding mountainside, sipping local wines and cheering their family herd. But it is the cows who choose who to fight and who will reign supreme at the end of the season.

"They've been doing this ever since my grandparents were young, and even before that," says Marthe Vianin, once the proud owner of several fighting cows. "It's hundreds of years old."

Vianin, in her sixties, has come to watch her son's two cows — Tzardon and Bamby — take on champions from other herds.

Down in the corral, Bergamote faces off a challenge from Berkane with a fierce stare and a tussle of horns. No harm done. Still, there are clearly some seasoned fighters in this contest, judging from the scars they bear from past battles.

Locals insist the bovine power-struggle is both humane and irrepressible.
Just wait until the kooks from PETA get wind of this.
There is no prize money for the winner, but owners can fetch a handsome price — up to $30,000 (euro21,000) — if they choose to sell a queen.

Most important, says local Albert Salamin, is the respect.

The winner's owner is "king of the village for the year. He's more respected than the mayor," Salamin says to laughs from bystanders.

The Salamin brothers have several cows in competition, but Albert admits only his brother Armand's prize heifer Bolero stands a real chance this year.

Cow fighting is still taken seriously, but it's largely a hobby and a cherished tradition for most villagers, who have long since stopped living off the land.

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