The alphorn – a National Symbol of Switzerland

The alphorn - a National Symbol of Switzerland

The Alphorn is a national symbol of Switzerland. It is a traditional wind instrument that was first documented in the mid 16th century and has been used by Alpine farmers for hundreds of years.

During the 18th century it was regarded as a beggars horn as impoverished shepherds played the horn in the cities but over time and with a folk culture revival, horn playing grew in esteem. Today there is rarely a folk festival or national holiday without alphorn players taking centre stage.
The alphorn is made from wooden strips of birch bark or cane. There are a few dedicated instrument makers who specialize in the manufacture of the alphorn which requires over 70 hours of manual labour per horn. Depending on the landscape, the alphorn can be heard 5 to 10km away.

The horn, which sounds similar to a trumpet, normally produces sounds in notes G and F and there are said to be about 4,000 alphorn players in Switzerland. The Canton of Valais hosted the World’s biggest alpine horn festival in 2018 with competitors in solo and ensembles striving to be crowned the best alpine horn blower in the world.

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