The second Saturday of September is the setting of a very traditional event in the Tirolean village Jerzens. After 2 1/2 months the cows come home from the alpine pastures, the cow bells ring and everybody celebrates the return of the cattle.
Cattle procession in the Tirolean Alps
There are strict rules on the alpine pastures. And therefore it’s exactly prescribed which cow has to wear which head decoration (called Proscht). Toni Schöpf, dairyman of the Jerzener Tanzalm Alpine Pasture, knows all the animals very well and therefore at the end of the season he’s the unbiased person, who decorates the cows for the cattle parade.
For example he selects the Stoßproscht decoration for the most impressive cow. The Milchproscht decoration is given to the cow which produced the most milk and there is also a Proscht for the most beautiful grey cow and one for the most beautiful brown cow. Because the second places are also awarded, eight cows finally lead the herd down to the valley.
Spellbound by tradition
The staff of the alpine pastures prepares to leave already a couple of days before September 9th: they weave wreaths from alpine flowers, like stone pine branches, fir branches, blackthorns or rowan tree branches. If no serious accident has occurred during the summer there are no limits to creativity. The more efficient the cow, the more splendid becomes its decoration. The Milchproscht headgear for instance is decorated with miniature editions of utensils used for processing milk, for example with little butter churns or scotch hands.
The Jerzener Tanzalm Alpine Pasture is a community pasture where up to 120 animals live in summer. It’s located at an elevation of 2000m, which means the animals have to descend about 7km during the cattle parade. Therefore the cows have to relax first of all when they reach the main square in Jerzens. Then they are picked up by their farmers and led back to their cowsheds. In the evening, after tending the animals, the farmers come back and celebrate with the others.
Authentic without any kitsch
The whole village celebrates and the guests join in. Cheese dumplings and freshly made doughnuts with cranberry jam, sugar or sauerkraut are served. Bands are playing music and beer is served. On the next day the party continues, because then the Jerzener Kirchtag (kermis) takes place with a special service, an open-air mass, a shooting competition and dancing. The cattle parade in Jerzens is not a show set up for the tourists, but a colorful piece of rural life.