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Discovered in 2008 because forced by the snow to descend from the mountain, today the 23 wild Haflingers no longer fear the white blanket thanks to the volunteers
The horses of Monte Bisbino
Alta Valle Intelvi (Como) -В It seems like a fairy tale that is told to children to make them fall asleep and instead it is a true story that of horses of the Bisbino, born in captivity and able to conquer their freedom by surviving the cold and the harshness of the mountains. It all started in the winter of 2008 on the slopes of Mount Bisbino, on the border between Italy and Switzerland, covered with snow almost as in these days.
It was a cold morning when the inhabitants of Sagno, Switzerland, saw a herd of hungry horses descending into the village, advancing in the snow almost to the withers. The same thing, but they could not know it, had happened a few days earlier in Rovenna, in Italy, even in this case a herd of horses was pushed up to the vegetable gardens of the houses to try to graze some grass from under the drinks
It was an extraordinary snowfall, which had deposited more than a meter of snow on high-altitude pastures, driving them so close to man, depriving them of any chance of survival. It was then that some peasant remembered the legend of the mountain horses, that wild herd that some hikers had reported years before reaching the summit of Mount Bisbino, which it was said belonged to a farmer who had taken it into his head to raise his Haflingers there. Survived the death of their master, the Bisbino horses remained at high altitude as long as they could and then descended towards the valley, divided into two herds, one on the Swiss side and the other on the Italian one on the mountain.
Twelve years have passed since then, but the pack stands free and indomitable strong of its own 23 horses. "A good half belong to the original nucleus вЂ" he explains Maria Chiara Lietti, which for years has been looking after the Haflingers together with the other volunteers, through the association dedicated to them вЂ “they are animals that are 20 to 25 years old, an important age for horses, but all in all they are in good condition. Now they are at Pian delle Noci, in the area that the Mountain Community has made available to us, where they live free but can count on hay at will and covered areas where they can take refuge. The rest of the herd is made up of younger specimens, born in recent years ".
During the spring and summer, the horses move on the meadows of Orimento and Alpe Squadrina, on the slopes of Monte Generoso, in the Canton of Ticino, where they gallop free inside the natural park. social network they have become real star with allвЂ ™ assets a movie is calendars dedicated to them, loved by children and by all those adults who still believe in the power of fairy tales, especially when they become reality.
Alta Valle Intelvi, 18 May 2020 - В В It has begun Phase 2 also for the horses of the Bisbino finally back free on the meadows of Orimento and Alpe Squadrina, on the slopes of Monte Generoso in Canton Ticino, after the long winter spent at Pian delle Noci. The transhumance of the last herd of wild horses remaining in the Alps, which was repeated this year too, reduced to a show due to Covid, is a ritual that retains its charm intact.
"It was very complicated to be able to organize the move from Italy to Switzerland in a period in which the borders are formally closed вЂ "explains Maria Chiara Lietti who for years has been looking after the Haflingers together with the other volunteers, through the association dedicated to them вЂ". Although we asked for all the permits in time, we had to postpone the transhumance, which usually takes place at the end of April, by a couple of weeks, also reducing the number of participants. In the end, however, everything went very well, the horses moved safely even along the roads and crossings which for them are the most delicate and dangerous part ".
To escort them at a brisk pace the volunteers who drove the 21 horses with their voices, then when the road began to climb and even the last houses disappeared, the Haflingers no longer needed anyone and started galloping in the meadows that from Orimento climb up to the summit of Monte Generoso. A small miracle that has been repeated for about ten years now, even if the history of the Bisbino horses began earlier, in 2008, when for the first time in the villages of Sagno, in Switzerland, and of Rovenna in Italy, a herd of hungry horses appeared.
To push them to get so close to man was an extraordinary snowfall, which had deposited over a meter of snow on the high pastures, depriving them of any chance of survival. It was then that some peasant remembered the legend of the mountain horses, that wild herd that some hikers had reported years before reaching the summit of Mount Bisbino, which it was said belonged to a farmer who had taken it into his head to raise his Haflingers there. . Having survived the death of their master, the horses of Il Bisbino have thus become a symbol of freedom, even for all of us who, after months of imprisonment, dream of finally returning to life as before even knowing that the moment of our transhumance has not yet arrived. .
Lanzo d'Intelvi, February 24, 22013 - Children get it right, da here in the next few years there will be no more foals in the Bisbino horse herd, the proud people of Avellino who have become a symbol of freedom who have lived on the border between Italy and Switzerland since 2009. Rinselvatichiti after the death of their master, the horses, raised in the mountains, had had to adapt to the harsh climatic conditions by learning to collaborate with each other to survive. It is thus that in a few seasons from the initial herd raised by man new foals were born, they came into the world completely free. The Bisbini and the Bisbinelle, as the members of the association that has been taking care of them since 2009 have affectionately renamed them, are destined to grow but cannot reproduce, the fault of the Italian law that prohibits stallions from being able to roam freely outside the stables. . В «Actually the legislation is even more complicated вЂ "he explains Mariachiara Lietti, the veterinarian who takes care of them в “there is a real registry office and reproduction is authorized only by guaranteeing the pure breed, it cannot be free as it has also happened in the recent past for our horses”.
So the young stallion of the herd, just one and a half years old, who in recent weeks has been wintering with the rest of the horses at Pian delle Noci, next spring before he can return to Alpe Squadrina will have to be castrated. В "When we took on the task of looking after these horses we did it to save them from certain death and we worked hard to keep them free вЂ" Luigia Carloni underlines в "The herd in a few years has grown thanks to some births that there have been and this has cheered us all, but it is time to stop. It is already complicated to follow twenty-four horses, further increasing their number we would be forced to divide them or force some members of the group, such as stallions, into captivity, to respect the law ».
Already today, to guarantee the existence of the Bisbino horses, the association spends tens of thousands of euros every year on hay (5 trucks only this winter for a cost of 16 thousand euros), veterinary care and maintenance of the area. В "Unfortunately it is a clayey soil where horses, especially during the thaw period, struggle to move вЂ" explains Mariachiara Lietti вЂ "we have budgeted for a series of consolidation interventions in this area, but we do not exclude the possibility of finding solutions more suitable in the neighborhood, with the collaboration of all those who like us love BisbiniВ ».
A fairytale story that could soon also interest science. “In addition to the ethological aspects of the experience linked to the regression to the state of nature and the choice to live in a pack, there are also some interesting scientific implications. We have found that horses are more resistant to disease and even injury
MENDRISIO - Autumn is taking over Ticino, and soon the Cavalli del Bisbino will descend to their "winter residence" at Pian delle Noci in Lanzo d’Intelvi.
For this year the Associazione Cavalli del Bisbino has decided to organize the transhumance using only a few riders, without the intervention of volunteers walking along the path.
"Past experiences" explains Luigia Carloni, president of the Association "have convinced us that the recovery, grouping and relocation of all the subjects at the end of the summer are operations that must be carried out calmly and with the help of a few people. On the other hand, we know that transhumance is a very heartfelt event followed by many people for this reason we decided to propose a convivial moment open to everyone to celebrate the return of the horses to Lanzo together ".
Instead, the appointment for the spring transhumance remains fixed, which will be organized as usual.
After the winter spent in the Pian delle Noci enclosure in Lanzo d’Intelvi, foraged, cared for and pampered by volunteers, the horses of Monte Bisbino are waiting to return to the slopes of Monte Generoso.
The herd's transhumance should have taken place towards the end of April, but the serious health emergency of the last few weeks has caused everything to be postponed until a later date.
The horses of Monte Bissino have now become a real institution in Insubria and beyond. A particular story, between nature and freedom in the mountains between Como and Lugano. We could define it as a cross-border history, one of those de sfroos in all respects, because these are the areas. The story of these horses began in 2002, when the herd was abandoned to itself on Monte Bisbino, on the death of the owner, and then "adopted" in the following years, not without problems, by a group of Italian-Swiss volunteers.
The peak of Bisbino is located in Italian territory, at 1325 meters above sea level overlooking Lake Como, just above Cernobbio. A peak that has always been a frontier territory, for men and animals, since ancient times. It dominates the entire Como branch of the lake, the Intelvi valley, the Swiss peaks, up to 4,000 Valais and Bernese, the Varese area with Monte Rosa and the entire Po valley, granting an infinite and splendid view on clear days.
Here are still the remains of the positions of the "Cadorna Line". The road, in the stretch between the Rovenna cemetery and the summit, was built during the First World War, as part of the construction of the defensive system.
The area near the summit is surrounded by a fir forest, the result of reforestation carried out in the 1930s, for a vegetation completed by centuries-old beeches, woods and mountain pastures.
This is the territory, where a herd of horses has lived and thrived for many years, in a semi-wild state. A herd is now known to all as the "Cavalli del Bisbino" and which have become a real tourist attraction. So identified with the territory that they are also called "Bisbini" and "Bisbinelle".
Everything was born from a farmer from Cernobbio, Roberto Della Torre, very attached to the territory who owned a dozen Haflinger horses, also known as Avelignesi. An equine breed that owes its name to the village of Avelengo, in the province of Bolzano. In German the village is called Hafling and the horse is therefore known by the place name. Horses characterized by a beige coat, a thick golden mane and tail and a white stripe on the muzzle that creates a nice chromatic contrast. They were used for mountain work and had to be resistant, robust and powerful. Quiet and reliable in character, they also adapt to often difficult living conditions such as working animals or for use in the army.
Della Torre in the 70s, he had created a settlement in "Bocc de la campana", just below the summit of the Bisbino, starting practically from scratch pursuing his dream, with sacrifices, commitment, courage and investments, he had built a farm model with stables and barns.
The breeding was mainly reserved for cattle with dairy and meat production. Alongside cows and calves, Della Torre later expanded the farm with Haflinger horses and some goats. The animals were left free in a semi-wild state, but took care of them in case of need, in case of bad weather, bringing them hay during the cold season.
The turning point came in 2002, with the death of Roberto Della Torre. Due to disputes regarding the farmer's inheritance, no one took care of the horses anymore, which ended up being left to their fate, coming to be completely or almost forgotten. Over the years, however, the herd, due to the presence of a stallion, grew in number, even counting about twenty elements, without ever leaving the Bisbino and its surroundings, managing in some way to survive without human help.
The change in their history came in the winter between 2008 and 2009, which turned out to be particularly harsh, with several heavy snowfalls at an altitude that exceeded 50 centimeters, which led the herd to descend further downstream to find food and shelter. Oddly, the horses split into two groups. A first group made up of seven elements and headed by a mare that was then called "La Bionda" for its thick golden mane, crossed over into Canton Ticino, through the Senterùn route, going as far as Sagno in the Muggio Valley on the Swiss side of Mount Generous. The second herd, made up of eleven animals, led instead by a mule, passing through Piazzola and Pievenello instead descended from the Italian side towards the town of Rovenna above Cernobbio.
Horses, hungry and in search of shelter, pushed more and more towards the houses, both on the Swiss side and on the Italian side. They entered the parks, gardens, orchards of the houses, even going into the cemetery to eat the flowers. As evening fell, they often set off on horseback riding in the town center on the cobbled streets, waking up the inhabitants. The inhabitants of Sagno and Rovrena alerted the authorities. So checks started. The two groups created opposing factions, on both sides of the border: those who wanted to force horses away, not only from inhabited centers but also from pastures and pastures. Those who, on the other hand, wanted to guarantee them a life of freedom, in that territorial context.
The mayor of Sagno ordered the removal or capture, worried for the safety of its inhabitants. With the risk that the horses would end up in slaughter on the orders of the cantonal veterinarian in Ticino and the gamekeeper in Lombardy.
The Green Jackets (Association of Civil and Environmental Protection, volunteers on horseback) began to follow and protect them, bringing hay and water on the tracks beaten by the two herds. Animal welfare and environmental associations from Ticino and Como mobilized to support and defend the freedom of horses.
In the meantime, from one of the two herds, a stallion is expelled from the pack leader, which, now mature, as nature wants, had to look for its females and form a new group. The inhabitants of Rovenna sighted the lonely and frightened animal, approached it, starting to feed it by adopting it as a mascot, calling it Puppy. He went around the surrounding woods and the inhabited center, then someone raised the issue of public order. The local police of Rovenna had him captured and transferred to a farm in the province of Varese. The inhabitants of Rovenna rose up, asking back what was now in fact their mascot. But once in the stable, the animal had adapted to that type of life and it was difficult to reintroduce it to nature.
Meanwhile, the story of the Bisbino horses bounced around all the local and international newspapers and had a wide echo. The opinions of Fulco Pratesi, national president of the WWF and of the ethologist Giorgio Celli arrived, in which it was noted how horses had become an important resource for the territory, also representing a particular variety, and it was necessary to favor their permanence in a situation of semi-wildness, as it had been for years now.
Over time, the entire herd was considered "res derelicta", that is, something abandoned and therefore could become part of the state's wildlife heritage at full capacity.
An Italian-Swiss group of animal lovers took them into their custody, assuring them that they would monitor and feed them during the winter. On the initiative of Luigia Carloni from Ticino, an architect in Rovio in Canton Ticino and the Como veterinarian Mariachiara Lietti, the non-profit association "Cavalli del Bisbino" was founded in Como in March 2010. They were gathered and foraged in a large enclosure just below the summit of the mountain. Then the "bisbini" found a stable refuge for the winter, a few kilometers further on in Pian delle Noci at 900 meters above sea level in the municipality of Lanzo d'Intelvi, in via Pradale, where there is a large enclosure fully equipped with suitable shelters and drinking troughs. Accommodation made possible thanks to the generosity of the Como municipality that made the space available for free to the association.
At the end of April and beginning of May, the pack instead takes the route of Monte Generoso, with a spectacular transhumance with an ancient flavor that crosses the towns of the Val d’Intelvi. A journey of several hours that the 22 people from Avezzano complete in the company of the various members of the association, the volunteers of the Green Jackets and even curious people, who thus accompanies them on foot in the summer pastures at Alpe di Orimento, up to Costapiatta at 1500 meters of altitude, under the summit of Monte Generoso, where they will remain completely free until October, and then return to Lanzo d'Intelvi, for the new cold season. A pasture made available to the Mountain Community.
During the summer, guided tours of the herd are organized, starting from the Alpe di Orimento, a spectacular terrace overlooking Lake Lugano and whose view sweeps across most of the Alps. The herd can be admired descending from Generoso or going up from Orimento, you can meet horses on the pastures of Squadrina and Pesiò, or see them in the pine forests under the Baraghetto or at the Barco dei Montoni.
The Cavalli del Bisbino are supported by the activity of volunteers and enthusiasts. Support was offered by the Geneva-based Gelbert Foundation which also purchased the tractor needed to transport the bales of hay for the winter. Foundation created in 2008 by Georges - Raymond Gelbert in memory of his brother Eugène, active in the fields of environmental and animal protection as well as university research in the field of vision.
They are also helped by the Ticino Stella Chiara Foundation and the Marchig Foundation named after the Genevan painter who established it. It then counts on the shares of about 500 members ", to meet the many expenses to maintain the herd, from forage (5 trucks for the winter alone for a cost of 16 thousand euros), to machinery, veterinary expenses, up to hospital admissions. . Maintenance that is activated thanks to donations from members, their membership fees, the sale of various gadgets such as photographs and calendars.