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Erschmatt Valais celebrates Swiss diversity: ancient and modern

Erschmatt's animals

Ancient

blacknosed sheeps
Blacknosed sheep recorded as far back as the 16th-century. Their coarse wool was a favourite with Alpine inhabitants who needed protection from the cold. This is Miss Erschmatt, chosen during an Erschmatt festival.
sheep festival
The crowning festival

Some have suggested that judging from remains found in the hills around Sion, the blacknosed Upper Valais sheep were grazing here 5000 years before Christ, because hornless sheep are only noted from the Bronze Age.

However, written records are scarce before the early modern period, 400 years ago. This shortage is often ascribed to the destruction of records in village fires that were a regular scourge of the wooden buildings, as well as burnings by French troops at the end of the 18th century.

In 1884 an official document calls them "the blacknosed race from Vispertal" (Visp valley) of Upper Valais. Its rough wool was woven into a beloved farmer's cloth for tunics and warm stockings. They produce around 3kg of wool per year. They weigh some 100kg.

nivenalpfest
Sheep fest Nivenalp

 

goats
The black-necked goats probably have an equal pedigree. Farmers in the Valais did not keep cows until the Middle Ages, when they could sell their animals' meat to rich Italian towns, it is reported. They remain a favourite with Erschmatt's part-time farmers.

Modern

highland cattle
A new era has come to Erschmatt's cattle farming since the 1970s with the introduction of Highland Cattle from Scotland. They can flourish on poor pastures and are even used down in the floodplain, producing first-class meat. Erschmatt's Highland Cattle breeders are proud that the cows and their calves are kept together for at least a year.