Salers – Legendary Cows

Salers is the name of a mahogany-coloured cattle breed (there are also a few black cows) from the Massif Central in France, or more precisely from Auvergne.

In Switzerland they are raised as suckler cows, even though they were previously used in France as bi-purpose or even tri-purpose animals. Auvergne still boasts Salers cheese, made precisely from animals of this breed.

Many stories have sprung up around the origin of the Salers. For example, there are theories that the animals accompanied human beings in mass migrations from northern Africa first to the Iberian Peninsula then to France, from where they moved on to Great Britain. These theses are supported inter alia by early pictures in Egypt and North Africa and similar looking breeds in Portugal, Spain and Great Britain. Even the Romans mentioned the Salers, albeit in conjunction with the cheese of the same name.

    mystische Salers

Not only in Auvergne but also in Switzerland, the Salers with their long curved horns can be a source of mystic inspiration.

Another legend goes as follows:

A few million years ago, the Good Lord sat on His cloud next to Saint Peter and contemplated the Cantal volcano. Thick lava streams poured out from around the enormous crater, which spat forth fire and flame, occasionally flinging up magnificent reddish balls that plunged down the steep slopes.

The Good Lord appreciated this beautiful sight. Saint Peter said to Him: “What a pity, Lord! Once this fine volcano becomes extinct, what will be left of these wonderful colours?”

“You are right, Peter,” answered the Most High.

After thinking for a while, He explained: out of these red balls I will make cows that will be free to roam these mountains, which I shall cover with lush grass.

Later, God created Auvergne, giving it this vast and still warm region.

The Lascaux cave paintings, likewise located in Auvergne, also show red and black cows, which with their horns could well be the ancestors of the Salers. Opinions differ as to the time period when the paintings were created: either 17,000-15,000 B.C. or 36,000-19,000 B.C.

Regardless of which story you pick, the Salers are ideally suited to turning grass into milk and meat, becoming highly appreciated as suckler cows in Switzerland and elsewhere.

    Die zwei roten Kühe – Ausschnitt aus den Malereien von Lascaux

«The two red cows» – a detail from the Lascaux paintings. A similarity with cows of the Salers breed is plain to see.

Sources: salers.ch | mutterkuh.ch | salers.org | wikipedia.org | lamontagne.fr | archeologie.culture.fr