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Swiss Roots
Swiss Roots

From Schwingen to Jass

These youngsters are the latest generation to enjoy alpine wrestling or Schwingen where it has been a sport between Swiss clubs in California for 80 years.
Schwingen is a duel between two physically powerful competitors. The nationally-acclaimed Bösen (“wicked ones” - the best wrestlers) from throughout Switzerland pit their strength at Schwingen festivals. Schwingen’s origins are hard to determine. There is an early depiction in the cathedral of Lausanne dating from the 13th century showing one of the typical Schwingen grips.
Some 120 wrestling festivals take place in Switzerland every year, from March to October. If American-Swiss events are included, the number reaches about 200.
A National Wrestling Festival takes place every three years, with eight rounds fought over two days. Women’s wrestling was first introduced in 1980.
The Swiss Schwingen Association is Eidgenössischer Schwingerverband.

Closely associated with Schwingen is the sport of stone throwing Unspunnen. The Unspunnen stone, weighs 83.5 kg (184.086 pounds) and is a rough glacial boulder.  It is thrown from a running jump for the longest possible distance.
The first Unspunnen contest was held in 1805 on the Unspunnen meadow near Interlaken.
Roland Staehelin holds the record for throwing the stone. In 1998 he tossed the stone 3.97 meters.
Another stone throwing competition is Steinstossen. Stones used at these festivals are of varying sizes but usually are not much over 50 kg.
In the United States, the Ohio Swiss Festival in Sugarcreek has the longest running competition, having run annually since 1956. Steinstossen at the Toledo German-American Festival began in 1989.
Hornussen is played by 16 to 18 strikers and the same number of fielders. An oval ball of hard rubber, known as the Hornuss is hurled into the air.  This game, to Americans, seems like a cross between golf and baseball.  It has been called "Farmers' Golf".
The Hornuss, or hornet, is so called because of the buzzing sound it makes when it flies through the air at a speed of 300 per hour. The strikers stand at the home base and hit the Hornuss with a flexible pole. The fielders use the Schindel, a flat wooden shovel, to catch the Hornuss or simply stop it in its tracks.
The earliest reference to Hornussen is found in the records of 1625 of the consistory of Lauperswil, canton Berne, in a complaint about the breaking of the Sabbath. In the 19th century this amateur sport was very popular in the Emmental and in Entlebuch. Jeremias Gotthelf described Hornussen in his novel, “Uli der Knecht”.
Eidgenössischer Hornusserverband EHV is the Swiss national Hornussen Association.

The word Jass comes from the Dutch Jos (peasant). This popular of Swiss card games was apparently brought to Switzerland from the Netherlands by Swiss mercenaries. The earliest reference to it is found in 1796 in Siblingen, canton Schaffhausen.

Jass is played by two to four players, or occasionally six players, with 36 cards of four colors and nine cards of each color, namely the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Banner (or Ten), Nine, Eight, Seven and Six. There are more than 50 variations of Jass in Switzerland and western Austria. The most commonly played game is Bieter. Two players sit across from each other. Whenever it is someone’s turn to call the trump color and they don’t have a good hand (several cards of the same color), they pass the decision on to their partner.

 In western Switzerland and in cantons Berne, Solothurn, Basel Town, Basel Country, Aargau (except Freiamt), and Graubünden, as well as the lake region of Thurgau, French cards with spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs are used.In the rest of Switzerland, German cards decorated with shields, bells, acorns and roses are used. The boundary between the French and German cards roughly follows the language divide.
Want to play?  Then download the SwissJass Android App