The Ibex: A Heraldic Beast and Its Story
Since the Early Middle Ages the ibex, standing upright on its hind legs, has adorned the coat of arms of the bishops of Chur. Later, this impressive animal was displayed on the flag of the „Gotteshausbund“ (The Alliance of God’s House) and finally on the official cantonal flag of Grisons. In advertising today, namely in tourism, the ibex is really being seen as a kind of mascot for Grisons.
Yet the people of Grisons did not always hold this proud heraldic symbol in such honour. Said to possess almost magical powers, the ibex was hunted mercilessly. Supposedly beneficial medication was made from all but some of its body parts. For instance, powder ground from its horn - as shown here - was considered an aphrodisiac. The big demand for ibex products led to the animal’s complete extinction by the middle of the 19th century.
The only surviving ibex were now on the southern, Italian side of the Alps - more precisely, on the Italian King’s personal hunting grounds in the Piedmont. Switzerland asked His Majesty for just a few animals for resettling in Grisons. His Majesty refused. The Swiss decided to pursue matters in a more unconventional way. In 1906 a number of poachers were hired to kidnap young ibex from under the Italian King’s nose. Once safely north of the border, the animals were raised and breeding began. Bit by bit, their offspring was released into the Alps of Grisons – and the canton once more had a population of its own Heraldic Beast.
Ihr Browser unterstützt kein HTML5 Audio.