German Language Blog

Swiss National Sports: Hornussen Posted by on Oct 27, 2017 in Culture, Sports, Traditions

All countries have some sport that has some tradition, or that is extremely popular. The United States, for example, has American football, baseball and basketball. Brazil and Germany have football/soccer, the British have rugby and cricket, the Canadians ice hockey… But what about the Swiss? There are actually three national sports. And I have never heard of any of them and I am from the adjacent Germany! So, let’s explore what they do down there! Today, we look at Hornussen.

Other posts in the series:

1. Schwingen

3. Steinstossen

Isn’t It Just Baseball?

The Hornuss set on the Bock, about to be hit with the Stecken (Image by Roland Zumbühl at under license CC BY SA 3.0)

Hornussen is a sport that has some similarities to baseball. There are two teams: one in the field and one at the Bock (ramp). Like with baseball, one by one, the “batters” at the Bock use a Stecken, which looks like a whip with a round wooden block at the tip (called Träf) to hit the Nouss or Hornuss (puck), which is where the name of the sport comes from. The Hornuss then whizzes through the air at speeds up to 300 km/h (about 180 mph) and reaches distances of up to 400 meters (about 440 yards). The task of the field team is to stop the Hornuss, called Abtun. They have big wooden boards called Schindel (or shingles) to do this. The goal is to hit the Hornuss before it lands in the playing field. It really is a team effort: By holding up the Schindel sideways, the players in the front show players in the back how the Hornuss flies. The Schindel are sometimes also thrown up in the air to hit the Hornuss – after all, hitting it and stopping it in its Flugbahn (flight path) is all you need to do. If they fail to do so, the batting team gets a Nummer (number).

Players during the Abtun (catching) of the Hornuss. The players in front do the Anzeigen (showing) of the Flugbahn of the Hornuss, so the players in the back know where to stand.

Usually, there are two Umgänge (rounds). Each Umgang consists of each player of the batting team batting twice and the teams switching once. So a game can take a while. A game with two Umgänge can take 3 to 4 hours!

This (rather old) video shows you very nicely how the sport works.

Astonishingly, there is no Helmpflicht (requirement to wear a helmet) for adult players. It is only required for young players. Despite that, injuries are rare.

The Ries (Playing Field)

The playing field starts 100 meters (about 110 yards) from the Bock, and is 10 meters (11 yards) wide at first. The field is trapezoid-shaped, however, so it becomes wider at the end. There are no rules on the evenness or sort of ground of the playing field. Traditionally, it was played after the Ernte (harvest) on the Äcker (farm fields), so the fields were not even. Nowadays, most games are played on even Rasenflächen (grass fields). There are even some fields that have an incline.

Winning The Game

The team that stopped most Hornussen, or rather, was hit with the fewest Nummern, wins the game. Traditionally, the losing team was supposed to buy the winning team drinks. Nowadays, there are Wettspiele (literally “betting matches”, but it also refers to friendly games). There is a set minimum bet of two francs. Sometimes, batters also make a bet for who can hit most Nummern or can hit the farthest.

Where Does The Name Come From?

As said before, Hornussen comes from Hornuss, the puck. But why is that puck called Hornuss, and not something like Scheibe (puck, disk)? There are two possible answers:

  1. The Hornuss makes a buzzing sound when it flies through the air, like a Hornisse (hornet). The word Hornuss and Hornisse are not far apart, so that would make sense.
  2. The Hornuss was traditionally made of wood or Horn (horn). Hornuss and Horn have the same root, so it can just come from that.

I actually find the first explanation more plausible! What do you think?

Swiss Golf

The game is played mostly in the Kanton Bern and in Switzerland. Outside of Switzerland, there are a few Vereine (clubs) in Germany and one in South Africa, where it is called Swiss Golf.


What do you think about this sport? Would you like to try it? Let me know in the comments below!


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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.