A different cow parade

  22.08.2022 Traditions

It is commonly said that there are as many cows in Saanen as there are inhabitants. Currently, there are probably a few more as model cows from all over Switzerland are on display in the Museum der Landschaft in Saanen.

The museum is dedicating its 35th exhibition to the cow. Or rather, the toy cow. About 400 examples of cows – most of them handmade in wood and some almost worn out – are on display until mid-October. Collectors from all over Switzerland have contributed as well as local collectors Hanskurt Hauswirth, and Franziska Haldi, Heini & Regula Hauswirth and Jacqueline & Stephan Jaggi.

Long time in the making
“The cow exhibition has been in our minds for a long time,” Stephan Jaggi emphasised at the vernissage. “We focused mainly on toy cows. Most of them are used, some worn out, and partly patched up.” As a boy, he too used to play with cows made from branches and pine cones, Jaggi recounts. For curator Franziska Haldi it was different: as a city girl, she didn't know much about farming or cows. That changed in 1965 when she was employed as a school teacher in Gstaad. She learnt a lot of facts from the children and later also from her father-in-law, a cattle farmer. Franziska Haldi is fascinated by the cows on display: “Every cow has a story, it either belonged to a child or a collector. If only the cows could tell ...”

This is home”
The cows can't tell stories, but their owners can. Olivier Dupraz from Geneva has no direct connection to agriculture, he works in the banking industry. He has been collecting cows since 1985 and currently owns over 1000. “This is home, this is Switzerland,” he answered when asked what the (model) cows mean to him. He is particularly interested in the Appenzell cows. His passion for collecting began with the purchase of a Rechsteiner, he bought the oldest model – a reclining wooden cow from the 18th century – in a pharmacy in Appenzell. Once he had seen it, he could not let it go, and it took him about five years to be able to call it his own.

“They are all valuable to me”
Martin Schwarz from Zurich is also a collector and started in the 1980s. Once on a visit to the Salzburg Festival – he, being from Bernese Oberland, met an elderly couple. “The friendly gentleman was obviously intrigued by my Bernese German,” says Martin Schwarz, as he spontaneously invited me for an aperitif in his old townhouse the next day. And there it was, standing in a glass case among other collectables: a beautiful carved Simmental cow. He was immediately interested in buying it. However, the owner found it very difficult to part with his Swiss cow. “But after a long negotiation, I was actually able to buy her – although I had to dig deep into my wallet ...” Schwarz recalled. But all cows are valuable to him, no matter what their material value.

Museum trail for children
Regula and Heini Hauswirth have made a special event for the children visiting – a hunt for cows. A total of 61 cows have been hidden in the museum, and those who find all the cows will be rewarded with a small surprise.

The exhibition “Vehschau im Museum” lasts until 16 October. For opening hours, see http://www.museum-saanen.ch



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