100 Years of Beauty
Cow Shows of Schangnau
The cow shows of Schangnau have long been known not just for their animals but also the people they bring together twice a year. The first cooperative in this valley, a couple of curves from the source of the river Emme, can be traced back to the early 1900s. In those days you could never reach the maximum score of 100 points, but if your cow got to the mid-90s it was excellent. This system of ranking changed in the 1990s. The shows were timed to the annual migration, the first in spring before the animals were taken up the alps, to the Älplis where they would spend their summers. There, they would feed off the most prized vegetation on the highest slopes, and be milked, and that milk would be made into cheese. And then, after perhaps a hundred days of summer, they’d come down to the valley below, their return marked and celebrated by another show in autumn.
Behind what makes a cow beautiful are some earthy concerns over its health and its ability to make milk. A deep chest means there is a large space for the heart, and a bigger heart can pump more blood. A large stomach translates into more eating and more nutrients. Good feet mean it can walk to its grass and not lie down with foot problems. Good udders are big and hard before milking, and small and light after. And they should be in an equal line to the stomach and not hang too low. Bulging veins in the udder mean good blood flow. And the back should have a gradient, while the backside should slope gently, but not too much.
Everyone has a favorite. Veronika of Schönisey has Strubeli, the hairy one. Hans Klötzli has Arve, named after the Swiss stone pine. Cornelia has Marina, who has trouble getting up the alp every year. And Bärnu, whose family is famous for its expertise with the Simmental? Well, he obviously seems to prefer Rita…