Behind the wood lies not only survival but good living

Hinterwälder are a breed originating in the south of the Black Forest and have nothing to do with Hinterwäldler (backwoodsmen). Yet perhaps this breed of cattle owes its survival to a similar characteristic, as the Duden dictionary describes the Hinterwäldler  as rather unworldly and backward; the word backwoodsmen referred to people who ‘live behind the wood, far from civilisation‘. And this was indeed the case of the Hinterwälder cattle. 

They acquired their name some 150 years ago. Within the ‘Wäldervieh‘ (woodland cattle) or the so-called ‘Badisches Landvieh‘ (Baden country cattle) that were widespread throughout the right side of the Rhine valley, one began to differentiate the Hinterwälder from their smaller sister breed, the ‘Vorderwälder‘. 

The Hinterwälder soon became concentrated on the heights on the southern part of the Black Forest. Thanks to this spatial isolation and good adjustment to the rough and barren conditions in the mountain area, the Hinterwälder population survived the rinderpest epidemic of 1814 to 1816, when 80 percent of the remaining cattle population in Baden and other parts of Europe fell victim to the rinderpest. 

However, rinderpest is not the reason why the race had to be classified in the 1970s as endangered, and was supported by special projects. Rather, it was the mineral fertilisers that improved the fodder above all at lower levels and led to brand-new developments in animal husbandry. However, the Hinterwälder were able to survive on the heights of the Black Forest due to their good characteristics, and are prized not only there but also in Switzerland, as they are very sure-footed on steep slopes and also well adapted to meagre fodder. These robust animals are used both for producing milk and as suckler cows, and are characterised by good roughage utilisation. According to Pro Specie Rara, the population is currently considered as stable.

With a withers height of 120cm for the cows and 130 cm for the bulls, Hinterwälder are the smallest Central European breed of cattle, and were formerly known as ‘Hirschvieh‘ (deer cattle). These very mobile cows, agile on all terrains, have long curved horns and a fawn colouring in their coats, with white legs, chest and head. (Foto: Mutterkuh Schweiz)

Sources: www.dictionary.com | www.duden.defondazioneslowfood.com | www.g-e-h.de |www.hinterwaeldervieh.ch|www.kuh-projekt.de | www.prospecierara.ch