Wild haymaking in Central Switzerland

Each summer for centuries, men in Central Switzerland have climbed from the mountain valleys to the high slopes in order to cut the grass for hay production. Due to their topographic features, these meadows cannot be used for grazing animals, treated with fertiliser or cultivated in any significant way, and as a result the plants they produce are completely natural. The process of harvesting these grasses and herbs is known as 'wild haymaking'. The grass on these high alpine meadows can usually be reaped only with scythes. If possible, it is then transported to the valley using hay ropes that the farmers install themselves. The bales – which are known as 'Burdenen' or 'Pinggel' and often weigh over 50 kg – hurtle to the valley floor at speeds of up to 100 km/h, making an unusual whooshing noise that can be heard for miles around. In the 17th century, poor farmers actively promoted the intensive use of the wild hay areas for economic reasons, but in recent times, this traditional alpine farming practice has taken on a more environmentally friendly note. Wild haymaking is practised mainly in the mountainous regions of Central Switzerland. Almost of third of all wild haymaking meadows in Switzerland are to be found in the canton of Uri, which has been actively promoting the practice for a number of years.

Detailed description


Traditional craftsmanship


Connected traditions


Michael Blatter: Die Veränderung der alpinen Landwirtschaft zwischen dem 14. und 18. Jahrhundert – am Beispiel des «Wildheuen» in Engelberg. In: Der Geschichtsfreund 163. Stans, 2010, p. 169-188

Alois Blättler: Alpwirtschaft und Wildheuen im Erstfeldertal. In: Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde 42. Basel, 1945, p. 129-163

Michael Dipner: Wildheuen: Alpine Tradition vor dem Comeback? Am Beispiel Uri. In: Die Alpen no. 10, vol. 82. Bern, 2006, p. 56-58

Sepp Hess: Wenn dr Schiäs öifgaad... Über das Bergheuen in Engelberg (Engelberger Dokumente 22). Engelberg, 2002

Erich Langjahr: Das Erbe der Bergler. Ein Wildheuerfilm. Root, 2006

Anni Waldmeier-Brockmann: Sammelwirtschaft in den Schweizer Alpen. Eine ethnographische Studie. Wildheu. In: Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde 38/39. Basel, 1940/1941-1942, p. 219-269 und 1-39

Beat Bieri: Der Wildheuer - Senkrecht über dem Urnersee. SRF-Dokumentarfim. Zürich, 2018




Kanton Uri
Wildheu-Förderprogramm des Kantons Uri

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