National cow fight contest runs latest ever

Feisty competitors kept spectators waiting until nightfall Sunday before a new “queen of queens” was crowned in the annual national cow-fighting championship in the canton of Valais.

National cow fight contest runs latest ever
Cow fight champion Frégate with its happy owners. Photo: Finale de la Race d'Herens (DR)

Organizers declared a cow named Frégate the victor at 9.30pm after the latest ever final duel at the competition held in Aproz, the ATS new agency reported.

Around 12,000 spectators turned out on Sunday for the event, featuring specially bred black Hérens cows, who lock horns while carrying large bells around their necks.

The turnout fell short of the record crowd of 16,000 recorded at last year’s event, when the weather was more cooperative.

And this year, amidst spells of rain, the cows prolonged their fights to the point where the final was held in the near-dark after many onlookers had left.

Local fire fighters used a truck with a search light to illuminate the arena so people could watch Frégate successfully beat a younger cow, Castagne, ATS reported.

The heaviest cow in the competition, Babylon, reportedly did not want to fight, while last year’s winner, Cobra, was knocked out earlier in an earlier round.

The competition at Aproz is the biggest event of several held in the canton of Valais in the spring.

Apart from the organized competitions, Hérens cows are noted for their naturally hierarchical nature.

The cows decide among themselves through impromptu springtime “fights” in the meadows who will be the “queen” to lead the herd up to the Alps.

The animals lock horns and push each other until one of them relents. 

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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