Black Nose Sheep, A Cute Mascot of Valais

Jul 13, 2018 | Valais | 0 comments

As I was wandering through the alpine valley and enjoying the beams of the warm, fading sun, I suddenly heard the gentle sound of familiar bells. It was growing on the way down. I had a look around.

I thought “there must be alpine cattle nearby” as I jumped from the grass to the road.

Along the way, there was a small, but fast moving river. It started somewhere above amongst the glaciers, and flowed down towards a huge green valley, which was spread amongst alpine summits, and tried to hide my eyes from the Sun. This was where I heard the sound of the bell.

It was here, along the riverbank, a huge herd of sheep were drinking pure water and eating fresh grass. I felt a great desire to approach the animals and bravely approached them.

One of the cute sheep raised her head and stared at me, with attention towards her eyes. The other sheep probably felt the presence of an intruder, and simultaneously followed her example. The bell sound went away, and we spent a silent moment watching each other.

Photo: Maria Talanova / suissepic

Those were the famous Valais Blacknose sheep (Walliser Schwarznasenschaf). These sheep look almost like small white bears because they are thick and furry, have special, horizontal curled horns, and have funny fringes that decorate their black faces. The Valais Blacknoses are, without a doubt, considered the cutest sheep. I later discovered that these animals were mascots of the Valais and Bern cantons. Their breed standard date back to 1962, but were first mentioned in 1400.

Crossing Zermatt’s meadows, I saw the sheep of Paul Julen, who is known as one of the most famous sheep breeders in the world. In 1972, together with his brother, the pair bought eight traditional Valais Blacknose sheep and started farming together. Today, with their 300 animals, the pair process about 1,200 kg of wool (4 kg per head), and supply meat for local restaurants.

On Wednesdays, from the end of June to the beginning of October, and from December to April, farmers invite travelers to visit their households and communicate with the animals.