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

Don’t Miss The Almabtrieb – Traditional Cattle Drive in Tyrol Austria

In Austria, Europe, Travel inspiration by JurgaThis post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. More info: Disclosure.

If you ever travelled 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? 

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. It’s traditionally celebrated in the Alpine regions in late September through early October. I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of this tradition before my visit to Tyrol last week, but now that I’ve seen it, 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 colourful event: the cattle (usually cows) are elaborately decorated with flowers, ribbons and other impressive ornaments. These colourful 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 – colourful 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 the cattle drive and farmers’ market in Reith im Alpbachtal

I attended the cattle drive and parish festival in Reith im Alpbachtal – a picturesque little village in Tyrol. 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 (on the 23rd and 30th of September in 2017).

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

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


Herd of sheep at the Alpine transhumance in Tirol Austria

The sheep also 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

Traditional pastries

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, schnaps and hiking…. 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

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.

Practical information for visiting Almabtrieb in Tyrol

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

  • Here you can find a list of some of the bigger 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. Most of them happen on a weekend, in the period from mid September through beginning of October.
  • Almabtrieb attracts many visitors, so it’s best to stay in or near the town so that you don’t have to drive and look for a parking spot miles away. Here you can find the best deals for accommodation in Reith im Alpbachtal. If you are planning to attend another event, here you can find the best accommodation deals for the Austrian Alps.
  • If you like to experience these traditional celebrations to the fullest, you may want to get a dirndl or lederhosen.
  • On the website of Alpbachtal region you can find more information about all kind 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.

Disclaimer: I visited Tirol in partnership with Tirol Tourist Board and Alpbachtal Seenland region. As always, all opinions are my own. 

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Traditional Cattle Drive in Tirol Austria - Almabtrieb


  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! 😉 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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