"Ranz des vaches"

“Lyôba, lyô-ô-ba…”. Chanted at the right moment, these few syllables will have all the “true Swiss” in the room joining in as one. Whether in a café or at a festival, they are all that is needed to start glasses and spoons chinking along to the refrain of “lè chenayirè van lè premirè”, a reminder that the cows with bells around their necks of course lead the herd on their way. "Le ranz des vaches" is the most popular of all Swiss folk songs, even at its most raucous. A cowherds’ song attested as early as the 16th century, its original purpose was probably to call the herd in for milking, back to the cowshed or out to pasture in many rural areas. It has found its way into popular events, including the "Fête des Vignerons" in Vevey from 1819, where it quickly became established as the centrepiece of the winegrowers’ festival. The ardent patriotism it brings forth makes it a vital part of Switzerland’s heritage, having been co-opted from the cowherds to become a song of the people as exalted as the legends surrounding the Confederation’s founders. It has also inspired a number of composers seeking to evoke a pastoral setting, including Beethoven, Liszt and Wagner. Indeed, Jean-Jacques Rousseau attributed to it the power to make Swiss soldiers serving abroad desert as they succumbed to "delirium melancholium", such is its magical hold over the Swiss!

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Social practices



Le chant du ranz des vaches par le chœur des Armaillis de la Gruyère, tiré de: Ecoute Gruyère © Choeur des Armaillis de la Gruyère


Sabine Carruzzo-Frey, Patricia Ferrari-Dupont: Du labeur aux Honneurs, quatre siècles d'histoire de la Confrérie des Vignerons et de ses fêtes, Corbaz, Montreux 1998, 268 p.

Rencontres folkloriques internationales de Fribourg (Ed.) : La musique traditionnelle en Suisse. Chansons nationales, ranz de vaches et coraules. De l'alpage au salon (Colloque des Rencontres folkloriques internationales de Fribourg), Fribourg, 30 août et 4 septembre 1982. Fribourg, 1982

Guy S. Métraux : Le ranz des vaches. Du chant de bergers à l’hymne patriotique. Lausanne 1998

Jules Nidegger : Ayôba por ario. Etude détaillée et critique du «Ranz des vaches» de la Gruyère. Bulle, 1984


Swiss National Sound Archives



Musée gruérien

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