Lonely Planet Writer

Welcome a cow back down from the mountains in Bavaria as part of a centuries-old tradition

Every year in September, thousands of cows around the Bavarian Alps are brought down from their summer holidays in alpine pastures and given a royal welcome on their return to the valley. The bovine parade is known as the “Viehscheid” and is a much celebrated annual highlight for the locals who, dressed in traditional costume, together with thousands of visitors, gather to watch and celebrate the animals as they are separated and returned to their owners for the winter months.

Bringing down the cattle from the mountain pasture in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria. Image by Hans Huber/Getty Images

The whole herd are fitted with bells to ward off any evil spirits they might come across on the journey home, making quite the melody as the steadily plod their way back to their respective villages.

A post shared by Lars Dietrich (@ld_foto) on

And the fifteen cattle leading the procession are adorned with ornate floral headpieces during the colourful custom – they must truly be well grazed in order to resist nibbling at each other’s very instagrammable fashion statements. The fantastic tradition dates back to the beginning of the 1900s and is continued today to ensure sustainability of Bavarian grazing lands and also to maintain the cows health and well-being.

A post shared by Michael Prestel (@michpre) on

Head for Pfronten in Allgäu where the first Viescheid of the year will take place on 9 September 2017. In this region, roughly 500 cattle will be rounded up and led through the streets to much fanfare. The locals celebrate the occasion with two weeks of festivities including observing farmers, blacksmiths and shoemakers at work and you can even help to plait the lead cow’s head pieces during the build-up.

The Pfronten Viehscheid is marked afterwards by a wonderful folk fair, oompah music, beer and lots of local food. A full list of procession dates and times can be found here.