Cow with decorative headdress at the traditional cattle drive Almabtrieb celebration in Tirol Austria

Almabtrieb – Traditional Cattle Drive in Tyrol Austria

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If you ever traveled to Tyrol in Austria in summer, then you probably know that cows play a very important role in the region. The ringing of the bells and the moos of the cows in the distance – these are the scenes that any visitor to Tyrol is definitely familiar with. But have you ever heard of Almabtrieb?

In this article, you can learn more about Almabtrieb in Austria: what it is, what to expect when attending Almabtrieb, and where and when to find them.

What is Almabtrieb?

Almabtrieb (also called Transhumance) is a traditional festival with a cattle drive from alpine summer mountain pastures to the lower valleys in autumn. At the end of the summer, farmers celebrate the coming-back of the cows to the valley.

Almabtrieb is traditionally celebrated in the European Alpine regions in late September through early October. Austria and Switzerland have centuries-old Almabtrieb traditions.

I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of this tradition before my visit to Tyrol a few years ago. But after attending it once, I would love to go back and join this lively celebration again. It’s so much fun!

Almabtrieb or Transhumance is a traditional cattle drive celebration in Tyrol Austria
Cows come back to the village in style
 

Almabtrieb is a very colorful event. The cattle (usually cows) are elaborately decorated with flowers, ribbons, and other impressive ornaments. These colorful headdresses are called ‘Buschn‘ in German, and the lead cows have the most impressive headdresses.

People try to look their best as well. Most locals wear traditional clothing – colorful dirndls for the women and lederhosen for the men.

The whole village joins in this vibrant celebration that is usually accompanied by a traditional market, live music, handcrafts demonstration, and lots of local food specialties.

Traditional cattle drive Almabtrieb in Tyrol Austria
The lead cows have the biggest and the most impressive headdresses
Local people in traditional Tyrollean outfits - dirndl and lederhosen
People wearing traditional Tyrollean outfits – dirndl and lederhosen
 

What to expect – my experience at Almabtrieb in Reith im Alpbachtal

I attended the cattle drive and parish festival in Reith im Alpbachtal – a picturesque little village in Tyrol, Austria. We were told that this event is one of the biggest in the area with thousands of visitors coming to Reith during the last two Saturdays of September every year.

Almabtrieb festivities started early Saturday morning with the opening of the farmers’ market. The cattle drive was planned for in the afternoon, around 2 PM and by then the main street in the village was crowded with spectators excited to see this colorful parade.

I found the market and the celebrations just as fun to watch as the cattle drive itself.

And since pictures say more than a thousand words – here is a selection of images to give you an idea of what to expect when attending an Almabtrieb in Austria.

People celebrating traditional Tyrollean festival in Austria
People are extremely relaxed and very friendly
Austrian pretzels for sale at a farmer's market in Tyrol
Pretzels
Herd of sheep at the Alpine transhumance in Tirol Austria
Also the sheep join the cattle parade
Traditional Austrian band playing music during the Almabtrieb cattle drive in Tyrol
Traditional music cannot be missed
Traditional Austrian pancakes - melchermuas
Traditional Austrian pancakes – melchermuas
Farmers celebrating Almabtrieb cattle drive in Tyrol Austria
Even the youngest members of the family are dressed up for the occasion
Traditional cow-shaped cookies for sale at a farmers market in Tirol
Sweet pastries at the market
Traditional pastries at a local market in Austrian Tyrol
Local women baking traditional pastries in hot oil
Traditional Austrian schnaps for sale at a farmers market in Tirol
Traditional Austrian schnaps
Local musicians at the traditional Austrian farmers market and Almabtrieb celebration in Tirol
Schnaps and music go well together šŸ™‚ You have to try some schnaps in Tyrol!
Austrian alpbhorn - Alps horn performance during the transhumance and annual farmers market in Alpbachtal Tyrol
Alpbhorn – traditional music instrument from the Alps
Local women demonstrating traditional handcrafts at the farmers market in Tirol Austria
There are lots of traditional handcrafts demonstrations at the Almabtrieb market
 

In Austria, the transhumance is celebrated in many different places across Tyrol and these festivities attract big numbers of local and foreign tourists each year. Some people even plan their whole trip to Austria around these events, while some others come back every single year.

Below, you can find some practical information about attending an Almabtrieb in Austria.

Practical information for visiting Almabtrieb in Austrian Tyrol

Feeling inspired to visit Tyrol and attend one of the cattle drives and traditional celebrations? Here is some practical information.

  • Almabtrieb usually takes place on a weekend, in the period from mid September through the beginning of October. Here you can find the list of some of the biggest and the most impressive cattle drives in Tyrol with the dates for this year. Here are the dates of Almabtrieb celebrations in the other Austrian regions.
  • If you like to experience these traditional Austrian celebrations to the fullest, you may want to get a dirndl or lederhosen. You can also buy these traditional clothes in Austria. Pretty much every village has at least one shop selling traditional costumes.
  • On the website of the Alpbachtal region, you can find more information about all kinds of events in the area. Check it out – there’s always so much going on, from cattle drives to dumpling day or even air rifle shooting.

Traveling to Tyrol and looking for more ideas on what to see and do in the area? Here are some of the best family-friendly summer activities in Austrian Tyrol.

More inspiration for Austrian Tyrol:

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Almabtrieb - Traditional Cattle Drive in Austria
 

Comments

  1. Hi Jurga- I am currently in the process of planning a trip next Sept. I would like to stay in Reith im Alpbachtal as my husband has mobility issues. I found a hotel but requires a 5 night minumum and we would can only stay 2 nights. Did you stay in town, if so where, or outside where? Perhaps staying outdise would still be on the route of the cow descent? Any information would be appreciated. Jane

    1. Author

      Hi Janie, I was in Alpbachtal on a special trip for travel writers and we were staying in a privately owned self-catering house with 5 or 6 separate bedrooms. It was just 10 minutes walk from the town centre, but no, the cows didn’t pass there. They do just a rather short walk actually, right in the centre of town, and are then stationed at one of the farms along Neudorf street, where you can see them the whole afternoon.
      When I search for accommodations in Reith there seem to be a lot of options that allow 2-night stay in September. Most hotels have minimum stay requirements in summer or during peak ski season, but not the rest of the year. There are quite some really nice hotels around the town. Anyway, try searching here.
      Not sure what you mean by mobility issues, but when I ask for wheelchair accessible hotels, there is only one that comes up – Boutique Hotel Schloss Matzen. However, it’s quite a bit outside the town centre.
      Hotel Pirchnerhof is closer to the city centre and has rooms available for 2-night stays, but you’d have to see if it has the facilities that you need.
      This hotel is located along the earlier mentioned Neudorf street that leads to town centre, where all the celebrations are happening, but you’d still have to walk to get there – the cows don’t actually go that far.
      Hope this helps a bit.

      1. Thank you so much, very helpful! I wil do my research and find the perfect hotel. Thanks for your reply and I enjoy your blog. Janie

  2. I vaguely remember something similar when i lived in Switzerland – love all these traditions it is what makes me adore Europe so much. The food looks amazing too!

    1. Author

      Indeed, Tracy, there is a similar celebration in Switzerland too. As for the food – loved the food in Tirol, and also the Austrian prices (definitely if you compare it with Switzerland :)).

  3. What an interesting festival, it is so colourful and looks like a lot of fun to go too. I do love their traditional customs and how they have dressed up the cows. Sign me for next time especially if I get to have some of those Austrian schnaps.

    1. Author

      Didn’t know you like schnaps, Melissa! šŸ˜‰ It’s a very colourful festival indeed, really fun to attend. I would love to go back again as well, there are so many of these kinds of events all over Tyrol in autumn, would have loved to see a few more.

  4. We were at the same Almabtrieb on the same day! I couldn’t believe all the people, but it was a great experience. The melchermuas are delicious.

    1. Author

      Really?! What a coincidence! From what I saw, there were many tourists from abroad, and since the weather was so nice, many local people too. I think these events attract big crowds, and I see why. It’s such a special experience indeed!

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