Alpabfahrt - Liechtenstein's Traditional Cattle Drive
In Liechtenstein we are very proud of our traditions. One of them is the Alpabfahrt which takes place in early September. This is when the cows, which spent their summer on lush Alpine meadows high up in the mountains, move back into their stables in a festive procession past the princely castle and through our capital of Vaduz.
The convoy, which can be heard long before it is seen due to the distinct ringing of cowbells, is led by the cow that produced the most milk over the summer. This cow wears a particularly extravagant headpiece consisting of a milking stool decorated with alpine flowers. The other cows wear the Alpabfahrtsherz, a heart shaped piece of wood that bears the inscription ‘JHS’, a reference to Jesus Christ. These decorations used to be crafted by hand, specific to each animal. As a sign of modernization (and growing herd size) they are now of a standardized format. Upon arrival back in the valley the Alpabfahrtsherzen are fixed to the outside of the stable.
About two weeks after the Alpabfahrt, the timing of which is determined by the amount of food available to the cows on the alpine meadows, the Prämienmarkt takes place, where livestock is assessed by experts. In some towns the Jahrmarkt, a type of carnival that features attractions for young and old, takes place around the same time as an extension of this traditional event.
Watch a video of the Alpabfahrt here.