A steel cowbell? Of course! Here at Valais, our necks are adorned with forged steel bells (‘sonnettes’) rather than the kind of cowbell you might usually expect to see. Our sisters from the Fribourg area wear different ringers (‘sonnailles’), and those from Neuchâtel wear another kind of cowbell called a ‘potet’.
The cowbells have lots of uses. They make it easy for the cow-herder to find us if we are all spread out, and they scare adders away. They also mark each of us out, rather like the sound of the human voice distinguishes each of you.
Each is different from the other. These cowbells come in different sizes, in line with our ages. The older we get, the bigger the cowbell.
These cowbells are artisan made, and have great sentimental value to our owners. The cowbells are good for over 50 summer seasons, and are often passed down from the cow to her calf. During the cow fights of the queens, the best fighters are always awarded Valais cowbells in the colour of that particular region.
You can now pick out the tunes of the nursery rhymes, all you have to do is to ring the bells in the order indicated by the colours. If you have perfect pitch, you will have noticed that the C (or ‘do’) of our horn key correspond to a B flat on the soil key.