Le Ranz des Vaches (The Cow Line-Up) is a Swiss cowherding song in the arpitan (Franco-Provençal) dialect. The song dates to the 16th century and is from the Alpine region in the canton of Fribourg, Switzerland.
The song makes mention of the armayi (French: armailli), a term used to describe the cowherders of the Fribourg and Vaud Alps. Known for their excellent cheese (“Gruyère” cheese is actually from the city of Gruyère located in this region), the armaillis are dairy farmers whose livelihood is earned by producing milk, butter and cheese from their pasture-raised cows. The cowherders often sing and play their alphorns to call the cows for milking.
One can imagine the scene: Wearing their traditional costume, the armailli sing “lyoba” (from ayôba / alyôbâ, which means “to call the cattle”) and play their
alphorns, the sound ringing across the green hills. Hearing the sound, the cows head to their master, the rustic bells around their necks loudly
ringing in the mountain air, and they obediently line up to be milked.
The armaillis, their cows and the Ranz des Vaches have been featured prominently for many years in the
Fête de Vignerons (Winegrowers Festival) in Vevey, Switzerland, as can be seen at the 5:42 mark in a marvelous display from 2019
The song is so well-loved by the Swiss people that some even consider it an unofficial national anthem. It is a manifestation of the authentic simplicity, innocence and culture that sprang from the hearts of Catholic peoples – even the simple shepherds – and is a lasting testament to
organic society, a product of the Catholic Civilization that was
once faithful to her call.
We have provided two interpretations of Le Ranz des Vaches below: The first is the famous 1977 version by cowherder-singer
Bernard Romanens, the second version by the cowherder-choir
Les Armaillis de la Roches.