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Sheep Shearing Savognin: A Traditional Practice in the Swiss Alps

In this article, we will discuss our experience visiting the Sheep Shearing Festival in Savognin, Switzerland.

One of the most fascinating traditions that has been preserved in Savognin is the art of sheep shearing. Every year, on a Saturday in October, locals and visitors gather to witness this age-old practice that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Image of Sheep Shearing in Savognin by TouringSwitzerland.com
Image by Sheep Shearing Parade, Savognin by TouringSwitzerland.com

Overview: Sheep Shearing in Savognin

The Savognin Sheep Shearing Festival, also called Tundeida in Romansh, starts when the sheep come down from spending the warmer months in the Swiss Alps. They are led by the shepherds to the village of Savognin. Once they are brought into the village, you can see the skilled hands of the shearers as they the wool off their sheep.

Sheep Shearing in Savognin is a unique experience that offers visitors the opportunity to witness a centuries-old tradition. The process of sheep shearing is not only important for the production of wool but also for the health and well-being of the animals. Sheep need to be sheared because it keeps sheep healthy by preventing issues like overheating and parasitic infestations.

The festival is a celebration of this important practice, and visitors can witness firsthand the meticulous process of shearing one sheep at a time. It involves the use of specialized tools and techniques. You can expect around 300 sheep to be sheared.

As visitors watch the farmers expertly shear the sheep, they can also learn about the history and significance of this practice. The festival is not just about the shearing of the sheep, but also about the cultural significance of this tradition. It is an opportunity to learn about the local way of life, the importance of sustainable agriculture, and the role of sheep in the local economy.


What is Sheep Shearing?

Sheep shearing is the essential practice of removing wool from a sheep’s body. It plays a vital role in maintaining the sheep’s health and comfort. Here’s a breakdown of the steps in the sheep shearing process:

  1. Preparation – To prepare for shearing, the sheep needs to be cleaned and dried to maintain the wool’s quality. Once ready, the sheep is safely secured in a shearing stand that looks like a table. One additional person typically helps hold the sheep to prevent any movement during the shearing process.
  2. Shearing – The shearer utilizes a specific tool to remove the wool from the sheep’s body. It looks like a razor. This handpiece consists of a comb and a cutter that operates in tandem to cut the wool near the skin. The shearer performs the task precisely.
  3. Packaging – After the wool is sheared, it’s typically categorized into various grades depending on its quality. The finest quality wool is reserved for clothing, whereas lower-grade wool is utilized for products such as carpets and insulation. In Savognin, the wool isn’t sorted on-site during the shearing festival; instead, it’s gathered in a large container for later sorting.

Sheep shearing is a specialized craft, and it’s vital to engage a trained and experienced shearer to guarantee the sheep’s well-being during the procedure. It is interesting to look at, and you can be ensured that the sheep are not harmed in the process.


Sheep Shearing in Savognin: What to Expect

Image of Sheep Shearing in Savognin by TouringSwitzerland.com
Image of Sheep Shearing in Savognin by TouringSwitzerland.com

At around 11:00 in the morning, the sheep make their way into Savognin from the Swiss Alps. They are gathered and led to the school near the village.

The event draws many visitors, especially families with young children, so expect a crowded path. The prime spot to view the parade is by the stone bridge in the heart of the village.

While the program may change from year to year, you can anticipate some consistent attractions each time:

  • Sheep arriving and undergoing shearing
  • A market featuring local products
  • Games to win prizes (ex. cheese-tasting)
  • Demonstrations such as
  • The chance to interact with or observe other animals like ponies and goats, whether for riding, petting, or simply enjoying their company.
Image of a Shepherding Demonstration, Sheep Shearing Savognin by TouringSwitzerland.com
Image of a Shepherding Demonstration by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Date: The sheep shearing event in Savognin usually takes place once a year, typically on the first Saturday in October.
  • Location: The sheep shearing festival is usually held in the village center of Savognin, particularly in Plazza Grava.
  • Admission and Fees: It is free to visit the sheep shearing event. Visitors are welcome to come and go any time as they please. The available shows can also be viewed without any extra charge. Extra activities such as pony-riding or face painting will come at an extra fee should you wish to participate in these activities.
  • Food and Beverages: There are many food and beverage vendors at the sheep shearing event, offering a variety of snacks and drinks. You can expect a variety of bread and cheese, baked goods, and sausages. I suggest that you should bring cash because card terminals are not a guarantee.

Final Thoughts: Is it Worth Visiting the Sheep Shearing in Savognin?

Sheep Shearing in Savognin (Tundeida Savognin) offers a one-of-a-kind experience, making it a must-see if you’re in the region and intrigued by this centuries-old tradition. Savognin, situated in Val Surses, is a charming small mountain village worth exploring if you seek a traditional setting that maintains its authentic character, distinct from its more modern neighbors like Laax and Lenzerheide.

This is an excellent chance to observe the age-old practice of sheep shearing while delving into the history and culture of the region. It’s also a great way to appreciate the natural beauty of the area, often overshadowed by its more renowned neighbors like Lenzerheide and St. Moritz. Furthermore, the event is suitable for individuals of all age groups.

In conclusion, attending the sheep shearing event in Savognin is an essential activity for those keen on discovering the region’s culture and traditions. It is an experience that is both educational and enjoyable and one that visitors will remember for years to come. We enjoyed visiting it and will likely come again in the future.

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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.

Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.

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