“Gilihüsine”, an early form of Hornussen, is alive and well on Bettmeralp!

Gilihüsine
Gilihüsine

“Gilihüsine”, the Alpine forerunner of Hornussen, is enjoying something of a revival. Each autumn, the age-old game is played at Lake Bettmer on Bettmeralp.

The playing field for Gilihüsine is similar to that of Hornussen. Instead of the Nouss, the Beinkuh, a cow’s toe-bone, flies through the air. The launching stick is not made of fibreglass, but is a long stick of hazel or alder. The bone is intercepted with a kind of paddle; these are often patched together with wood taken from vegetable crates. The teams are divided into a striking party standing outside the playing field and the team inside the playing field. The latter are armed with the paddles and await the flying bone on the slightly sloping terrain below Bettmer Lake. If the Beinkuh falls to the ground inside the playing area without being intercepted, the striking party wins a point. Each round lasts as long as it takes for all the hitters to have a turn. Just like in the old days, the losing team has to buy drinks for the winners.

For hundreds of years, each spring the men from Betten used to make their way to the flat field near Lake Bettmer to play Gilihüsine. The game was also played in other forms in the Valais mountains before the custom was forgotten. In the 1950s, a game of Gilihüsine was staged once again for an ethnographic documentary film before it completely died out. The game was rediscovered in 2010 and has been played annually ever since. Aletsch Arena – where traditions are still alive and well.

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