A farmer wanted to do good by his older lead cow and put a smaller, lighter bell around her neck before going up to the Alp for the summer. The cow refused to do a step in any direction! What to do with a 800 kilogrm Simmental cow? The farmer put the old bell back on and the lead cow immediately started walking with the other cows following her up the Alp.
A goat herder put a small goat-bell on the counter and said: “I need a bell of equal size but different sound.” When asked the reason, he explained: “Unfortunately, the old mother-goat died. When the remaining goats hear the sound of the bell hung on another animal, they get so sad knowing the mother-goat is no longer here, they stop eating!”
These and other stories were collected by Berger bell foundry Bärau, a family business since 1730!
Loading felled trees onto horse-drawn sleighs in winter, the “Schälle” (bells) were mounted on the horses back, chest or legs to warn other forest goers that the load was coming down the narrow forest path without brakes. Bells on working horses were law in Switzerland until the 1980s.
Cows high up on the Alps have free roam, but need to be found swiftly for the twice daily milking. Cow bells were the answer then and now as they prove more reliable then GPS, especially in fog. Small animal herders swear by the bells as protection of their flock against wolves.
The ‘Schälle’ in the Swiss card game ‘Jass’ depicts this practice.
Protection and Luck
Joy, sorrow, protection and luck have been announced for time immemorial all over the world with the bell, one of the oldest cast instruments.
The assortment expanded quickly and today, Berger Foundry Bärau is famous throughout the world for crafting sheep, horse & cowbells; house, hand & ship’s bells as well as a selection of Trychel – large cowbells in hammered sheet metal according to authentic traditions of the region.
Berger bells are found on all five continents and are especially treasured in Asia where the wholly custom and hand-crafted, traditional work is particularly appreciated, including the leather straps which are all carved and coloured by hand!
Cast your own bell
In small group seminars, Berger Foundry Bärau offers workshop participants (2-35 people) to craft their own bell. Maybe you have your own family crest, but any other motif is possible. The workshops are equally popular by locals, firms and tourists, and suitable for older children.
If you’re in the area, Berger Foundry Bärau makes for an interesting stop to observe a truly traditional craft in all its facets by the descendants of the foundry of 1730!
I bet you will walk out of the foundry with awe at this age-old craft – and possibly a good looking ‘Schälle’ or two! 🙂
Langnau in the Emmental (Photo swiss-image.ch/Jan Geerk)
Let us know your experience once you’ve been by the Berger bell foundry Bärau in the hilly Swiss Emmental and leave a comment below!
Switzerland travel enthusiast. Cat lover, bicyclist and classical music fan. I prefer walking over running and enjoy a good Swiss card game of Jass with friends. More about Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust »
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