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Holy Swiss cows!!!!

I watched a video last night on the walk from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. I couldn’t get over all the cows in Mannlichen. I’m a little obsessed with the Swiss cows. Maybe it’s because growing up in the Midwest the only cows I see are boring black and white ones confined inside a fence. It’s so weird to me that the Swiss cows are just roaming around on the mountains.

I will be staying in Lauterbrunnen for 5 nights the second week of Sept. Do you think Mannlichen is my best option for seeing cows? Also, is there cow etiquette I should be aware of? Is it acceptable to pet the cows?

For those who are interested, the video I watched is on You Tube on the City Walks channel:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsp2XG8lPyw

Posted by
2089 posts

I am not sure about the best place to see cows in mid-September, but for sure do not try to pet them or get too close to them as they may react unpredictably! Stay on the paths, and if there are gates, close them carefully behind you. Also, the wire fences that you will encounter are electrified - not dangerous, but unpleasant !

Posted by
29 posts

Hi, Carrie,
I was in the Lauterbrunnen valley a few years back and had a chance to hike the valley from the cable car down from Gimmelwald back to Lauterbrunnen. I passed many cows along the way, and at times did stop to pet them. I don't think that I really had to even leave the path to do so. If the cows are up for it, they will basically come to the fence as they see you passing by. Best to just keep awareness of your surroundings and go from there. I was there in either July or August, so I imagine September would be similar. Hope this helps!! Have a great trip 😀

Posted by
130 posts

Several years ago, in early October, my husband and I stayed at an inn just outside Davos, Switzerland. We took a walk after dinner in the dark. The air was crisp and all we could hear were cow bells! Yes, they actually had bells around their necks. I'd never get close to a cow, however.

Posted by
86 posts

The cows are very cool.

But, please do not get to close to them, and certainly do not to pet them. It can be genuinely dangerous. They are large animals and can behave unpredictably, especially when there are young animals around.

I do not know of articles about this in English, but articles about good hiking behaviour around large animals appear in German with regularity. Here are a few examples that you can read with an online translator:
https://www.br.de/radio/bayern1/bergwandern-kuehe100.html
https://www.alpenverein.at/portal/news/aktuelle_news/2014/2014_07_15_weidetiere.php

Posted by
144 posts

Hi Carrie, we visited Switzerland in mid-September and there were cows sharing the Panoramaweg hiking path above Mürren. (It was necessary to watch one's step). They were docile, but we only got as close as needed for photo portraits. I don't recall seeing any from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. The Panoramaweg is worth the effort in any case, as is the hike to Gimmelwald from Mürren where we saw a wild alpine ibex. Getting from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren is easy, just a cable car and a short train ride. The RS guidebook has details.

Posted by
11259 posts

Where the cows are at any given time depends on the weather and the grazing opportunities. When I went in September, there were cows in Gimmelwald as well as on the Maennlichen to Kleine Scheidegg walk. I saw signs that the cows were being brought down to Lauterbrunnen a few days after I was leaving.

So, just ask at your hotel where the cows are at that time; they will know.

Posted by
2700 posts

Petty cows? Not a good idea. My wife tried this once, and the cow whipped her with its tail and left a very painful black and blue welt on my wife’s torso.

Posted by
12133 posts

We encounter grazing cows on almost every hike in Switzerland. Often their presence is heralded by the sound of cowbells long before we see the cows themselves. I love that sound.

The last time we were up on Männlichen was in early August 2018, hiking to Kleine Scheidegg with our grandchildren. There were cows along the path and below on the grassy slope. One was almost totally blocking the trail, and we had to be careful going around her----she was waving and shaking her head because of flies annoying her, and those horns were fairly threatening.

Near Bettmeralp, we have been chased by frisky "springers" (springing heifers, meaning young cows before they are old enough to be bred, so they have not been handled and gentle by humans yet). It was a little unnerving. It the vast majority of the cows you will encounter while hiking are adult milk cows out on the Alps for grazing. They are brought in to a milk shed twice daily for milking, and are pretty docile.

We saw cows being brought in while walking the level path between Grutschalp and Mürren around 5 pm one time. The farmer and 3 dogs were herding the girls toward the barn, and we were surprised to see some of them actually running, and jumping over a ditch in the field, their full udders swinging back and forth.

Here is an article RS wrote for Smithsonian Magazine about Swiss cow culture:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-cow-culture-of-switzerlands-berner-oberland-14995565/

The brown-and-white cows in that photo are the Simmental breed. We have seen those on hikes above Mürren, heading to the Rotstockhütte. Also around Oeschinensee.

Many of the cows you will see are the solid tan ones called Brown Swiss in North America:

https://www.thecattlesite.com/breeds/dairy/31/brown-swiss/

I asked one of our Swiss hosts what those are called there, and he answered "we call them cows". OK. Those pesky heifers that chased us were this breed. Once we saw one of these being transported by helicopter, dangling from a cable below the whirlybird. Apparently she was sick or injured and unable to walk.

In the Valais region you may see the beautiful dark-brown, almost black, cows of the locLmvariety. I will try to find a photo. They are my favorite, but they have a reputation for being fierce, especially in the ritual cow fights that take place during fall festivals.

In September, if younare lucky, you may witness one of the "cow parades" ( Alpabzug) with decorated cows coming down from the high pastures for the winter.

https://lenews.ch/2019/09/12/flower-covered-cows-take-to-swiss-streets-switzerlands-desalpe-alpabzug-explained/

It is worth stopping in the local tourist information shop to ask if there are any going on during your stay.

Posted by
2861 posts

On our late afternoon Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg walk in July 2018 we looked up on a ridge and saw a herder and about a dozen scattered brown cows. A few minutes later the cows were charging down the hillside straight for our path and on down the mountainside to the barn below. It was milking time. It was a highlight of our walk but a bit terrifying as a couple of the cows didn’t want to go to the barn yet and the herder was chasing them around among us with a stick. The bells were really clanging and we got some great videos as we stood there trying to stay out of the way.

Posted by
49 posts

Hello Carrie,

My wife and I stayed up on the mountain in Murren in Early October 2019 and when we took a walk down to the next town of Gimmelwald, the cows were out and you could see them getting ready for their next trip. They had a wonderful "parade of cows" down to the next town. It was cool to see all the cow bells on their necks, clanging away. So, that may be an option - only a 30 minute trip from Lauterbrunnen.

Posted by
373 posts

Thanks everyone for the responses and great info. It sounds like we will have a good chance to see some cows and maybe even a cow parade if we are lucky. We will look, but not touch, unless a cow comes right up to us begging to be petted. 😊

48 days until I leave, not that I’m counting. 😊 That seems like a lot of days. Still a lot of time for things to go wrong.

Posted by
226 posts

Last time we hiked from Allmenhubel to Gruttschalp and saw TONS of cows. We didn’t pet them but one became entranced by my husband for some reason and followed us. We kept stopping but he wandered down the hill with us for a ways until he finally stopped. I have video of this sweet guy. As other have said you will hear them!

Posted by
220 posts

In early September, the cows should still be up in the Alps; many of the festivals where the cows come down out of the Alps start around mid to late September.

In late September, 2019, I hiked the Murren North Face trail from Allmendhubel to Spielbodenalp and most of the cows were already down, but I encountered a herd during the second half of the hike. When I sat on a bench for a rest and to take photos, one curious cow approached me and began licking the salt from my hands, then my pants, and finally the grips of my hiking poles. I got some good photos as she approached.

You can take the funicular from Murren to Almendhubel. It’s a scenic hike and not too difficult with some self-service cheese shops along the route. In early September, there may be cows near Almendhubel.

It’s the M2 hike on the Wordpress web sites listed below:

The M4 Murren to Allmendhubel to Winteregg hike might also feature cows.

https://lauterbrunnenhiking.wordpress.com/lauterbrunnen-hiking/murren-hikes/

https://lauterbrunnenhiking.wordpress.com/

https://muerren.swiss/en/summer/tracks/northface-trail-2h30/

There are also cows along the way from Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen, which is an easy hike through the valley with magnificent views. You can hike in either direction or take a bus to Stechelberg and hike back to Lauterbrunnen.

Although most of this year’s festivals seem to be cancelled due to Covid concerns, I’ll mention them just in case you get to return to Switzerland in the future.

The Alpabzug/ Albabfahrt/ Alpabfahrten (festivals where the cows are decorated with flowers and return to lower pastures before winter) are great fun to attend, and you will see a lot of cows. I attended the Chästeilet in the Justistal where the cheese is distributed at the Spicherberg" in the Justistal region. There was a lot of impromptu singing, plus a number of folks in traditional dress and Alphorn playing. I got to talk with a number of local residents, plus on the walk back to the Beatenburg-Niederhorn bus stop, a local herd owner invited us to join his family and friends to sample their wine as they enjoyed a road side picnic.

https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/experiences/events/chaeseteilet-im-justistal/

When I stayed in Murren, there would be a few cows being herded through the village at various times.

All the best,

Raymond

Posted by
1233 posts

Don't pet the cows, don't approach them, don't go into the pasture with them. You risk getting gored, kicked, ran down.
I have a horse. I have multiple signs on my property that say "horse bites" and "do not feed the horse." He bites, nips or whatever you want to call it, not that he is mean (he's a sweet old horse) but because people have teased him and hit him walking past the fence line. His attitude is "I will get you before you get me." I tell everyone I see that the horse bites. I still have idiots who try to pet him. I've ran out of patience with people who walk onto my property all the way to my house backdoor to pet the horse. I am no longer the "nice lady with the horse" but the "mean lady with the horse." If that's what it takes for his safety and theirs, so be it.
Please respect the animals and their owner. You wouldn't walk into someone's yard to pet their dog, so why would you pet any other animal?

Posted by
12133 posts

But you are not going to get bitten by a cow. Gored, maybe, if they are feeling aggressive, but not bitten. They do not have any upper teeth (incisors).

Posted by
373 posts

Raymond, thanks so much for the great info. I probably won’t be doing a lot of hiking on this trip as my sister and her husband are not big walkers. But, I am already planning a second trip for next year with just me so I can walk til I can walk no more. I will keep all these hikes in mind.

Horsewoofie, I appreciate your concern for the animals. I certainly don’t plan on trespassing. The video I watched, referenced above, had cows on the trail and in a parking lot around buses.

Lola, I did just read that cows have no upper teeth. I never knew that before. Weird. I’m so fantasticated with these cows I may need to look for a book.

Posted by
882 posts

When we hiked from the Mannlichen down to Kleine Scheidgg in July a few years ago I don't recall seeing any cows near the trail. What I vividly recall was hearing the sound of the cows well below us above Grindelwald. Once we heard them we could see them and they were tiny. Good memory!

Posted by
1265 posts

Another thought, in Ireland and in Slovenia I stayed in bed and breakfasts that were on working farms, and both places was invited to come outside and meet the animals. No thanks, got plenty of exposure to all phases of animal life and the cleaning of pens in my farm childhood. Even tho it sounds like Swiss cows are free range, I imagine there has to be someone who offers in essence a petting zoo for American tourists? I'm thinking of the sheep dog exhibition
In Ireland as a model. And if it doesn't exist yet, that might be my retirement plan. HAH

Posted by
31271 posts

Carrie,

Hopefully there will be a cow parade during the time you're there, as it's a grand production. The cows are all decorated with flowers and large bells. You may know this but one other tip.... don't get too close to the yellow nylon tape that will be mounted on small plastic pillars, at about knee-high level. That's an electric fence that encloses some cow pastures and if you touch it, you may get a rude awakening.

Posted by
157 posts

@Carrie

I hope the following is useful.

My travel diary tells me that my family and I were last in Lauterbrunnen for 4 days in 2018 and spent Sunday 30th in Murren. Mid-day, it was around 17C, blue sky with wispy clouds, rather calm and there were three cows with bells grazing in an open meadow above the Hotel Jungfrau. My 3-year-old granddaughter asked me to take her up close to them. When we got close, I was able to let her feel the coat one of them. She was apprehensive and thrilled at the same time. I knew how to approach the cows, slowly and confidently, and not stand behind them.

I need to expand here. During my youth, I had spent winter school vacation time on family friends’ farms doing some fulfilling tasks and some rather unpleasant jobs. One of the things I leant to do was to milk into a bucket by hand, sitting on a stool using both stripping and rolling finger squeeze method. While I can milk, I would not like to do it every day and did not find it satisfying. However, one becomes confident around domesticated cows. I also learnt that animals could sense apprehension/ fear in humans. They seem to sense us city dwellers.

It may be prudent to approach any cows only if you are completely confident and comfortable. You might be lucky and during a hike chance upon an accommodating farm worker who may help you. I think German is the second language in this region.

My wife grew up in a rural area, had her own horse which she rode to school and the local shops and still enjoys riding. I prefer my horses in front of me in an English sports car under a long curvaceous bonnet.

Like you I am used to seeing cows fenced in. It is gratifying to see these cows being able to roam a little. Late summer/commencement of the autumnal season in this part of the planet is truly pleasing. I hope you get to enjoy your time in the Oberland as much as we have and happen upon a nice farm worker to help you out.

Regards
Ron

Posted by
9716 posts

As Ron mentioned, there frequently are cows right in the center of Lauterbrunnen, at least there have been when we are there, usually in Sept, we also have spotted them in the meadow behind the church along the stream, and always somewhere in a walk in the valley from Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen.

Posted by
220 posts

Carrie,

You’re welcome.

Since your sister and her husband aren’t big walkers, you might take the funicular from Murren to Almendhubel and just stroll around the Almendhubel area before continuing on the funicular. There are great views.

There are a number of bus stops between Stechelberg and Lauterbrunnen, so you can take a short stroll from one stop to another.

If you are able to go next year, look at the festival dates. The Justistal festival is usually around Sept. 16 – 18. I started from Thun, which is an enjoyable city as well. There is a small café below the road where the cheese distribution/festival takes place. In the afternoon, you can stand along the road near the café for prime viewing of the cows as the parade down the valley.

All the best,

Raymond

Posted by
672 posts

I can't speak to the 2nd week of Sept., but I do know that almost always when I've been there in late August, cows could be found grazing around Mannlichen and Almendhubel.

As for petting them, it's like many things in life: risk vs. reward. Personally, I've petted dozens of those cows over the years. I just use common sense. Approach slowly where they can see you, speak gently, look for any signs that they are bothered at all, and back off slowly if they seem disinterested. The fact that some of them sit right next to the trails where people are constantly passing by can also give you a clue. If you click on my name you will find a link to the best hikes in the areas and you'll actually see pictures of a friend of mine petting cows at both Mannlichen and Almendhubel.

I should also add that you should not approach cows with young around them. In fact, there are some signs around Kleine Scheidegg warning visitors to steer clear of mothers with young. The fact that there are no such signs for "regular" cows tells me that the locals aren't too worried about other cautious interactions.

Posted by
551 posts

Carrie…..Jane here. I feel like we should see you in Switzerland as we will be there at the same time…….praying that the new Covid variants will not be closing anything!!! We got so lucky 4 years ago and saw 2 cow parades……one was a small village on our drive from Lake Como to Lauterbrunnen and then again a few days later on the Main Street of Wengen…..it was AMAZING. On my first trip to Switzerland we were hiking the Klein Scheidegg hike….just a nice flat road and the cows were grazing everywhere…..since we went to a “cow college” in Mississippi my hubby took a picture of me with one……still a favorite pic of mine!!! The parades were delightful….like we luckily walked up on a local treasure.

Posted by
25552 posts

the casual comment a few posts back about watching your step is valuable. Beautiful as the cows are, and makers of such lovely music, when the cows were being trained by their mothers they forgot the lecture on trail courtesy. In fact trails appear to me to be a prime site for cows to "relax" and leave souvenirs.

Then again the trails and the tourists came a lot later then the cows. These are their Alps and paths.

Posted by
373 posts

Thanks everyone for the additional replies. Such great info.

Thanks to those who mentioned Allmendhubel. I had forgotten about that. When I started my research, the trip was to be in April and I knew the Allmendhubel funicular was closed that time of year. Now that we are going in Sept., I’m adding it to our list. Thanks for the warnings about the yellow tape and electric fences as I was not aware of those.

Jane, I will keep my eyes out for you. Actually, you’ll probably spot us first. We’ll be the ones running down the mountains being chased by the cows. 😊

Nigel, in my head, I have this perfect vision of Switzerland. There’s no cow droppings, no bugs, no litter, no crime. Just mountains, waterfalls, and cows. 😊 Perhaps a bit unrealistic. But no worries, I am packing a second pair of shoes.

Posted by
31271 posts

Carrie,

If you're thinking of taking the Funicular up to Allmend Hubel, you can hike down through the valley and then back to Mürren. It's quite a pleasant walk and not difficult at all. As i recall, there are a couple of small hotel / restaurants up there and also cow grazing fields. It looks like the Allmend Hubel Funicular will still be running in the second week of September, as it's not scheduled to close for maintenance until 18 October to 10 December, 2021.

Posted by
373 posts

Ken, thanks for the additional info. I appreciate it. I'm not sure we'll have time for both Mannlichen and Allmend Hubel. After watching vides on both, I think I'll prioritize Mannlichen, but will keep Allmend Hubel on the list. This is our first trip to Europe so I don't have a good sense for how long things will take and how we'll all be feeling. This trip will be a learning experience for sure.

Posted by
25552 posts

just for when you are looking for tickets, it is one word (Allmendhubel)...

Posted by
672 posts

Carrie,
You could do both of those in one day. If you stay in Lauterbrunnen (or maybe Murren) you take the train early morning from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen (about 30 min) then walk over to the Wengen cable car station and then take that up to Mannlichen (about 30 min). The trail from Mannlichen down to Kleine Scheidegg only takes 45 min, though you could allow more time for cows. Then take the train from Kleine Scheidegg down to Lauterbrunnen (about 45 min).

To get to Almendhubel, take the cable car from Lauterbrunnen up to Grutschalp (20 min), then immediately take the waiting train over to Murren (another 20 min). Walk thru Murren over to the Almendhubel station and take that funicular up the hill (20 min). Once up there you can enjoy the cows and while walking towards the mountain take the left fork and you can go as far as you like because you can walk back to Murren along several different trails. See the maps on the link if you click on my name. Both of these places can easily be done in one day.

Posted by
373 posts

Thanks Nigel! I’m hoping my bad spelling and the SBB app are going to get along ok. 😊

Thanks Shoe!! I know I could do both in one day. I’m just not so sure about my sister and her husband. We’re staying in Lauterbrunnen. When I showed my sister a walking video of the walk from the Lauterbrunnen train station to the hotel Oberland, she asked if maybe there was an uber we can take. Since then, I’ve been trying to lower my expectations on how much walking we’ll be able to do. I may have to drop those two off at the hotel for a nap while I walk by myself. And I do greatly appreciate your maps and info. The info. and tips have been very helpful in my planning.