Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

"Taubenschießen" in Altaussee

Applicant: Gerhard Wimmer, Taubenschützenverein Altaussee-Schneiderwirt
Province: Styria
Domain: Social Practices

Taubenschießen [lit. “pigeon shooting”] in Altaussee is a social sport involving at least three shooters. Members of the Taubenschützenverein [Pigeon Shooters’ Association] meet at the inn Schneiderwirt, the site of a shooting range constructed around a giant pendulum. The projectile to be “shot”—or, more to the point, released—is an approximately 2 kg wooden pigeon with an iron beak that hangs from an 8 m chain made of steel wire links. The tail of the pigeon attaches to a string—which the marksman, with as steady a hand as possible, has to bring into line with the chain and the middle of the target. When the marksman lets go of the string, the ensuing pendulum motion sends the pigeon swinging towards the target, in which it lodges itself thanks to its iron beak. The Zieler [target attendant] then records the shot’s result on the edge of the target and swings the pigeon back to the Aufigeber [server], who hands the pigeon to the next marksman.

Taubenschießen probably arose as a “shooting” sport for the lower classes, for whom firearm ownership used to be forbidden. The shooting season’s winter scheduling probably comes from the fact that farmers and workers generally had less work to do during that season. This sport was widespread, from the North Sea to South Tyrol, but the only places where it is still practiced today are Altaussee and the Bavarian community of Nußdorf am Inn.
The tradition of pigeon shooting in Altaussee, of which the oldest written mention is from 1905, was practiced with repeated interruptions up to 1977. Since then, events have taken place every year.

Shooting takes place annually from the first Sunday following All Souls until a week before Fasching [Carnival] Sunday. Alongside the permanent shooting range at Schneiderwirt, there is also a mobile range that is set up at large community events. At the season’s end, Fasching Saturday features a meal for the marksmen with an awards ceremony while Rose Monday includes a tour of the community’s inns. On this tour, the marksmen carry along a hand-painted wooden target on which, each year, an association member is immortalised as a caricature. One receives this “honour” for committing some sort of amusing blunder during the preceding year.