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The "Almabtrieb" Cattle Procession

At the end of August and beginning of September the cattle are transported back down into the valley after a summer of grazing in the Alpine meadows. The cattle are elaborately and colourfully decorated, and their return home is accompanied by lively traditional festivities.

The practice of driving animals down the mountain, or transhumance, dates back to the Middle High Ages, and this tradition has been enthusiastically maintained in all Alpine regions of Austria. Every year, in late September or early October, the cattle that feed high up on the Alpine pastures during the summer are brought down to their barns down in the valley.

If there have been no accidents on the Alm during the summer, the cattle will be elaborately decorated with headgear adorned with Alpine flowers, ribbons, mirrors and bells and their return to the valleys is celebrated in front of tourists and enthusiastic onlookers, against an intoxicating atmosphere of live music and dance. The clanging of the cowbells is essential in order to ward off the evil demons on their way down into the valley. 

In many towns and villages, there are also food stalls, alcoholic beverages on sale and stalls selling artisan goods and hand-made crafts.
 

 

When the Cows Come Home

  • Cattle drive at the Almabtrieb at the Achensee © Achensee Tourism Cattle drive at the Almabtrieb at the Achensee © Achensee Tourism
  • Cattle drive in St. Anton am Arlberg © TVB St. Anton / Justina Wilhelm Cattle drive in St. Anton am Arlberg © TVB St. Anton / Justina Wilhelm
  • Father and son with cows © Alpbachtal Seenland Tourismus Father and son with cows © Alpbachtal Seenland Tourismus
  • Cattle procession © Tourismusverband Lechtal Reutte Cattle procession © Tourismusverband Lechtal Reutte
  • Almabtrieb in Radstadt © Tourismusverband Radstadt Almabtrieb in Radstadt © Tourismusverband Radstadt
  • Cattle drive Wilder Kaiser © Wilder Kaiser / Tirol Werbung Cattle drive Wilder Kaiser © Wilder Kaiser / Tirol Werbung
  • Almabtrieb und Highlight des Hintertuxer Oktoberfests © Österreich Werbung / Fankhauser Almabtrieb und Highlight des Hintertuxer Oktoberfests © Österreich Werbung / Fankhauser
  • Kuhglocken © © Österreich Werbung / Fankhauser Kuhglocken © © Österreich Werbung / Fankhauser

Whilst the practice of transhumance is widely practised all over Austria, the various regions of Austria have slightly different ways of celebrating this ancient tradition. Browse through some of the dates for the upcoming year in different regions, and take a look at some of the traditions particular to each area.

Carinthia

Sep. 8th 2018: Bad Kleinkirchheim
Sep. 8th 2018: Mallnitz
 

Upper Austria

Sep. 15th 2018: Hütteneckalm/Bad Goisern
Sep. 15th 2018: Moosalm
Sep. 22nd 2018: Plankensteinalm
Sep. 29th - Oct 30th 2018: Wolfgangsee

Styria

In Styria, culinary delights are served on the Alpine pastures, against a musical backdrop whilst the cattle are brought down from the mountains. The adornment of the animals is called crowning ("Aufkränzen"). On the Walcheralm in the Dachstein the day before the cattle procession there is the "Schottenrühren", where sweet food is stirred in a pot before being dished out, and the ritual is accompanied by a display of live music. 

Sep. 15th 2018: Lipizzaner-Almabtrieb Köflach and Maria Lankowitz
Sep. 15th 2018: Radmer cattle procession
Sep. 21st: Dachstein, Ramsau
Sep. 29th 2018: Lachtal - Hochegg

Vorarlberg

Date tbc: Au, Bregenzerwald
Date tbc: Bartholomäberg, Montafon
Date tbc: St. Gallenkirch, Montafon
Date tbc: Gargellen, Montafon
Date tbc: Tschagguns
Sept. 15th 2018: Silbertal
Date tbc: Mellau, Bregenzerwald
Date tbc: Dalaas, Biosphärenpark Großes Walsertal
Sept. 15th 2018: Schwarzenberg, Bregenzerwald
Sept. 19th 2018: Riezlern, Kleinwalsertal
Sept. 22nd 2018: "Schaufschod", Schoppernau

Tirol

In Tirol more than 2,100 Alpine pastures between Arlberg and Kaisergebirge, Karwendel and the Linz Dolomites house around 110,000 cows, more than 70,000 sheep, 5,500 goats and 2,000 horses. More than 40 larger and numerous smaller "Hoamafahrt" cattle drives take place in the autumn in Tirol, and in this area, the colourful traditional event dates back to as early as the 17th and 19th century. If, however, during the Alpine summer there has been any loss of cows through illness, avalanches or bad weather, they are brought back into the villages undecorated.

28th - 29th Sep. 2018: Cattle Drive in Hopfgarten and Kelchsau
22nd Sep. 2018: "Homecoming" of the Cows in Kufstein
21st Sep. 2018: Cattle Drive in Pertisau
22nd Sep. & 29th Sep. 2018: Cattle Drive & Parish Festival in Reith in Alpbachtal Valley
22nd Sep. 2018: Cattle Drive & Alpine Festival in the Wildschönau Valley
8th Sep. 2018: Tarrenz Sheep Drive
8th Sep. 2018: Sheep & Haflinger Pony Drive in Tux-Finkenberg
21st Sep. 2018: Cattle Drive in Tannheim
22nd Sep. 2018: Kaiserwinkl “Almhoamfahr'n” Homecoming in Kössen
22nd Sep. 2018: Cattle Drive in Söll

SalzburgerLand

In the province of SalzburgerLand, the shepherds create elaborate headdresses for the cows, composed out of fir branches, Alpine flowers, feathers and ribbons. In the area of Fuchlsee, you can witness the farmer's wives making the "Almkranzlbinden" in preparation for the event. Throughout SalzburgerLand there are often religious symbols incorporated in the attire, such as a picture of St. Leonard, the patron saint of animals. The animals are adorned with either large or small cowbells, depending upon their ranking. The herdsmen and women dress up in traditional lederhosen and dirndls and follow the cows back down into the valley.

Sep. 1st 2018: Bruck-Großglockner, Nationalpark Hohe Tauern
Sep. 8th 2018: Thumersbach, Zell am See
Sep. 8th 2018: Traditional Farmers Festival with cattle procession and dances in St. Martin bei Lofer, Salzburger Saalachtal
Sep. 8th 2018: Radstatt
Sep. 8th 2018: Weißbach bei Lofer, Saalachtal
Sep. 9th 2018: Raurisertal, Nationalpark Hohe Tauern
Sep. 15th 2018: Wagrain
Sep. 15th 2018: Maishofen, Pinzgau
Sep. 17th 2018: Filzmoos
Sep. 9th 2018: St.Michael, Lungau
Sep. 29th-Sep. 30th 2018: St.Wolfgang

Please note: the above list is only a sample of cattle processions and is not a complete list. Dates may change. Some information is only available in the German language.

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