28 August 2009

The "suicide cows" of Switzerland

In the picturesque Swiss village of Lauterbrunnen the locals are worried.

Dozens of alpine cows appear to be committing suicide by throwing themselves off a cliff near the small village in the Alps.

In the space of just three days 28 cows and bulls have mysteriously died after they plunged hundreds of metres to rocks below where they were killed instantly.

These are clearly not "suicides." The most reasonable explanation is that people or dogs/critters are spooking the cows and causing them to tumble over the cliffs.

Blogged because the event nicely illustrates one way ancient man obtained fresh meat. Archaic hunters, equipped with stone-tipped projectiles, were capable of killing deer and bison - but a much more efficient method involved driving herd animals toward a precipice. One such "bison kill site" is located in northern Minnesota at Itasca State Park. Details about the studies of that site are at this link.

Addendum: Vivi has provided a link to the more famous (and much more visually dramatic) Head-Smashed-In bison kill site in Alberta, Canada. The brief promotional video below shows the impressive cliff where the kills occurred...


  1. Another explanation is that it could simply be a hoax.

    It seems a little strange that there's no blood, scrapes, or wounds visible.

  2. What I find amusing is the phrase, "have mysteriously died after they plunged hundreds of metres to rocks below". Doesn't seem mysterious at all to me that they died. What's mysterious is that they plunged. So to speak.

    Another, fascinating, historical site about ancient hunting by driving animals (wild buffalo, in this case) over cliffs can be seen in person in Alberta, Canada at the Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump Interpretive Centre. Well worth a visit in person, but there also appears to be a website.

    Love your blog, by the way.

  3. @Anonymous - your comment actually makes a valid point (assuming the photo is representative of the events). I would expect them to fall close to the cliff and sustain injuries on the way down, and to stagger off on broken legs at the bottom. Maybe it's an attempt at an insurance scam?

    Or maybe they've selected the least gruesome photos for the article...

  4. Je ne crois pas du tout au suicide.

    Je vis dans les montagnes, et en presque 30 ans j'ai jamais vu ça, excepté dans quelques vieilles histoires qui impliquaient des chasseurs et paysans voulant prouver la présence néfaste imaginaire des loups sur "leur" territoire.

    Étrangement, cet article me rappelle le dramatique récit d'une ourse dans les Pyrénées, où les médias avaient insisté sur le fait qu'il avait trébuché dans le vide... autant prendre les gens pour des c**.
    Et par miracle, après plusieurs semaines, il s'était avéré que la carcasse du plantigrade contenait des dizaines de plombs de fusil de chasse.

    Après les vaches qui se suicident ça sera au tour des poissons de se jeter sur la terre ferme!


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