Black-nosed sheep are an important part of Zermatt’s summer scenery (and Zermatt winter’s tables if you are lucky enough to be served the delicious local lamb in one of our chalets, or perhaps in Chez Heine or Schafferstube). The rolling green summer hills would look bare without the crimped haired, white fluffy, black faced four legged ones, and local farmers would have no meaning to their lives.
This is why every year at the beginning of September, a hotly contested, deadly serious competition is fought amongst the Zermatt farmers to win the honour of being the owner of the finest sheep.
With their black faces, black hooves, black knees and uber fluffy white wool, these female sheep are just crying out for a cuddle. But it is not only appearance that is judged, though the criteria is very strict (I’m told one farmer years ago was caught using boot polish to blacken the knees of his favourite mother sheep). Grace of movement is also important as well as the quality of the wool. Though you won’t see any of them in a bikini, and thank goodness there will be no questions about their life ambitions, the competition between the 120 sheep is huge, with their owners preparing them, washing them, blow drying them, primping and combing them for days before the event.
The proud shepherd of the winner is presented with a newly cast sheep bell to hang around Miss Zermatt’s neck (and eventually in pride of place on the shepherd’s living room wall), and has the year engraved on it. Not many shepherds have more than one to boast about.
The event is held in Furi above Zermatt, and includes music from local musicians and yodellers, raclette and lamb specialities. A great day out, with the added bonus of a fluffy cuddle.