Cattle Driving during Harvest Festival

Homecoming Time

The return of cows, sheep, goats and ponies to the valley is duly celebrated during the traditional cattle drives.

When the days slowly get shorter in autumn and the rich, juicy grass on the alpine pastures decreases, this is the time the animals are brought home.

The time of the cattle driving begins. When “driving down from the alpine pasture” (a local saying for cattle driving), this means a big party for everyone involved. And when the alpine summer has passed without a stroke of fate, the cows are colourfully and festively “wreathed” (decorated).

Locals and guests enjoy and delight at the numerous cattle drivings during the Harvest Festival. After all, around 60,000 young cattle, 9,200 dairy cows as well as sheep, goats, horses and ponies spend their summer months up on the alpine pastures. They all look forward to returning to their home stables. In the Gastein Valley alone, 1,500 sheep and lambs come down to the valley during the sheep driving.

For weeks, dairywomen and farmers, together with their diligent helpers, prepare the elaborate headdresses for the animals. Flowers and blossoms from meadows, fields and cottage gardens are tied by hand or woven into wreaths and the special cattle driving bells and leather straps are polished to a high gloss.

On the day of the cattle driving, you can clearly hear the entourage of animals and people marching down the mountains surprisingly quickly. The animals set the pace and that is usually remarkable. You have to hurry, because the cows, sheep, goats and ponies are extremely comfortable on all-terrain and look forward to the meadows in the valley, which are now more lush than the alpine pastures.

Once they have arrived safely in the valley, it’s time to celebrate with savoury and sweet delicacies, with music, dance and song and full of joy and gratitude. All cattle drivings can be found here.

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