An extremely hardy breed of cattle, the Vosgienne cow is an excellent walker and particularly well adapted to difficult terrain. Highly resistant to sudden changes in temperature, it is well adapted to rearing conditions in mountain environments.
Its well-balanced milk, rich in fats and proteins, is perfectly adapted to the production of Munster cheese.
It sports a black and white spotted coat. A white strip on its back runs from the neck to the tail. Its head is generally white, speckled or even ash-coloured as far down as the ears, which are black, as are the horns, nostrils and hooves.
The various documents available to us enable us to situate the origins of the Vosges cattle breed around the 17th century. Thanks to the determination of a group of breeders displaying a passion for their work and strongly attached to this cattle breed and to their region, the Vosgienne cow, which many had thought permanently lost in the 1970s, is today making a successful comeback.
The Vosgienne cattle appeared in the 17th century, when this breed was first mentioned. There are two theories, that the cows arrived during the Thirty Years’ War when the Vosges range was invaded by Swedish armies, or thanks to migrants from Switzerland who brought them to the area. Whatever the circumstances, people adapted the breed to the difficult terrain and climate conditions of this mountain range, which they colonised up as far as the high pastures.
The Vosgienne cow was formerly used to pull agricultural equipment on the steep mountain slopes. It was preferred over horses or other breeds of cattle thanks to its lower maintenance costs. Dairy production was certainly not overlooked as the cheese production which resulted from this was often the only source of income for some families.
The 18th century saw the first difficulties appearing for this breed. With the herds decimated by war, the reconstruction of the region saw the introduction of new, higher performance breeds.
The 20th century was a hard time from the breed as it had to face two world wars. The rearing areas were heavily shelled and the occupiers requisitioned herds to participate in the "war effort".
The decline in numbers continued until 1977, when only 3,000 Vosgienne cattle remained. A handful of breeders finally succeeded in re-establishing the breed.
Today accounting for a stable population of around 10,000 cattle, the breed is managed by passionate breeders who continue to work to expand the presence of Vosges cattle in this mountain range.
As well as giving the Vosgienne cow its name, the Vosges range also offers the ideal environment for these cattle. Most of the herds are to be found in three regions: Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté. This is a mid-mountain range with steep slopes.
The Selection Organisation for the Vosgienne cattle breed and the Chamber of Agriculture of the Upper Rhine.
Learn more about the vosgienne breed: www.racevosgienne.com