In the village of Schüpfheim, thousands of people crowd the roadside to wait expectantly. Entering into the spirit, many wear an Edelweiss shirt; women wear the traditional Entlebuch dress, while men wear the «Chüjer» (traditional outfit comprising a black jacket with red-and-white trim, embroidered with edelweiss flowers). Women in local costume serve coffee from knapsacks, the Bratwurst stand does brisk business and a delicious aroma of grilled cheese fills the air as 25 market stands do a roaring trade in Alpine cheese and other regional products. Various yodelling clubs take up positions on the car-free streets; between traditional songs, the sounds of the alphorn ring out and members of the Schüpfheim children’s dance group perform merry dances. Suddenly, everyone stops and pricks up their ears, and all eyes turn to Sörenberg: a thunder-like rumble is heard in the distance. They are coming!
For almost two hours, seven herds of decorated cows, cattle, calves and goats make their steady way past the visitors lining the streets of Schüpfheim. The 200-plus animals are then driven to the pastures of local farms – but that’s not the end of the folk festival by a long chalk. Tables are quickly set up on the main street and the cattle drive celebrations continue until the sun sinks behind the Schüpferegg. The Entlebuch cattle drive is a thoroughly genuine event: whatever the weather, the alpine farmers come down into the valley from their pastures on the day decided more than a year in advance. Given that the sun nearly always shines on the cattle drive, it seems the weather gods also approve of this vibrant tradition.
Speaker Bio announces the first of the seven herds: the Distel family had left their pasture (the Hintersteinetli at Sörenberg) at 7.00am that morning. Having walked for 16 kilometres, they pass through the village of Schüpfheim at around 11.30am – and they still have another nine kilometres to go before reaching their home valley «Graben» in Doppleschwand. Prolonged applause and deafening cheers erupt for the splendidly adorned cattle, for the dashing cattle drivers sporting traditional costumes and «Chüjer», for the work of the alpine farmers throughout the summer, and for all those who uphold the living tradition of the cattle drive. At this overwhelmingly poignant moment for herders and spectators alike, many furtively wipe away a tear or conceal their emotions behind a big gulp of coffee and schnapps.
Start of cattle drive in Sörenberg
Cattle drive leaves Äbnistetten, Hasle
Main road in Schüpfheim blocked
Procession in Flühli; market for cheese and regional products opens
The seven farming families arrive in Schüpfheim, with folklore performances
15 minutes after the last herd
Full choir of yodellers plus alphorn players on the church steps; start of alpine herders’ fair in Schüpfheim
Market for cheese and regional products closes
Main road in Schüpfheim reopens to traffic
We recommend arriving by public transport in good time. The number of parking spaces is limited. Cars and coaches should follow the instructions of traffic officials. The centre of Schüpfheim remains closed to all traffic from 10.45am to 4.30pm. The train from Langnau to Lucerne calls at Schüpfheim at .59 (Regio) and .28 (express); the return train from Lucerne to Langnau arrives at .58 (Regio) and .29 (express).