Swiss cows miss out again on crown of ‘Queen of Mont Blanc’ in annual duel

An Italian cow beat off competition from 47 other competing animals from Switzerland, Italy and France to claim this year's crown at the 6th edition of the tournament, which means the wait continues for a Valais-born winner.

Swiss cows miss out again on crown of 'Queen of Mont Blanc' in annual duel
Two Herens breed cows fight during the 2015 edition in Aproz, Western Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.

The International Games of Queens of Mont Blanc takes place every year in either France, Italy or Switzerland at the feet of Europe's highest mountain, Mont Blanc. This year's edition, the 6th, was held in the French border town of Chamonix.

The unique event dates back thousands of years and celebrates the mountain heritage of the local population. The cows fight fierce battles with their horns, but according to the organizers, there are rarely casualties.

Forty eight belligerent Herens breed cows, named after the Val d'Hérens region of Switzerland, did battle on September 23rd and 24th before packed crowds to contest for the title of 'queen of Mont Blanc.' 

The Herens are endowed with “a unique combativeness,” according to Espace Mont Blanc, a regional website co-administered by Swiss, French and Italian regional governments. 

Each year the animals are led to alpine pastures, where the cows then test their strength and fight for the herd's leadership. The competition ends when a new queen has forced all the other cows to retreat.

Cows from the Swiss canton of Valais were left disappointed again this year in their duels against their counterparts from the Aosta Valley in Italy and cows from France.

Three Valaisian cows made it to the final, reports local daily Le Nouvelliste, although it was Gildo Bonin's Italian Valdostan cow that prevailed in the end. 

The three-nations tournament takes place each year, with each country taking it in turns to host. Last year the tournament was held in Italy; next year it will return to the Swiss canton of Valais. A Valaisian cow is yet to win. 

READ MORE: All you need to know about Switzerland's strangest sports




EXPLAINED: What is Denmark’s ‘cow spring break’ all about?

Organic farms in Denmark released cows from barns at 12pm on Sunday, with the animals roaming enthusiastically onto the fields as tens of thousands of spectators looked on.

EXPLAINED: What is Denmark's 'cow spring break' all about?
Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix

The annual tradition of celebrating the end of cows’ winter enclosure took place at midday on Sunday, when cows were released on to the grass at 59 organic farms across the country.

The event gives the public an important chance to see agriculture at first-hand, said Per Kølster, chairperson of interest organisation Økologisk Landsforening (National Organic Association).

“This is about being open, trustworthy and about the good feeling that can come from seeing these wonderful animals when they jump around on the grass,” Kølster told Ritzau.

“The trust upon which organic is built can be seen with your own eyes,” he added.

Last year, over 200,000 people in Denmark went to see the release of the cows at farms around the country.

Kølster said his assessment was that just as many had turned out this year to see the event sometimes referred to as the ‘cows’ spring break’.

“Interest is actually huge. That’s down to the animals. And this is because their joy is so clear,” he said.

Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix

The head of Økologisk Landsforening said he was in no doubt as to why the cows reacted as they did, running out on to the grass and jumping up and down to the delight of spectators.

“It can only be explained by one thing, and that’s excitement. They know that spring is coming. It’s just like a racing horse flying out of the traps,” he said.

“They only have one thing on their minds, and that’s to get out there and experience the grass. It’s very energetic,” he added.

Not everyone shares Kølster’s enthusiasm for the event. Local media TV2 Østjylland reported that vegans attended events in protest, while activist organisation Vegan Change was critical of what it likened to a 'Disneyfication' of agriculture.

“(Visitors) don’t see that cows walk around in cow dung for the rest of the year, or that they are damaged by all of the milk they are forced to produce. They don’t see calves and mothers being separated after 24 hours, or when cows are sent to the slaughter and are killed by a bolt pistol to the head and a knife to the throat,” Sophia Nox, a spokesperson for the group, told TV2 Østjylland.

Kølster told the media that it was the “clear democratic right” of vegans to demonstrate.

“The vegans’ project is very respectable. It’s fine for them to take a critical view of agriculture. But I can’t imagine farmers would show up to demonstrate at a day of celebration for vegans,” he said.

READ ALSO: Escaped cows cause chaos on Copenhagen highway