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Kulning, an ancient Scandinavian herding call

Listen to the traditional Scandinavian herding call known as kulning, as demonstrated by Sweden-based vlogger Jonna Jinton. The haunting song-like call for summoning livestock like cows and goats was used “from antiquity up until the 1950s,” according to NordicVoice.dk:

It could be described as kind of a “forest opera” that offers opportunities for vocalists at all skill levels — from simple herding calls and traditional melodies to challenging, impressive improvisations with a unique vocal sound.

In kulning, tradition and improvisation go hand in hand — it is both an artistic style and something you have to make uniquely your own. Shepherdesses would have known the common signal calls to communicate with animals and other herders, but they also had their own personal calls and melodies with which they expressed themselves.

Kulning is quite loud, reaching up to 125 decibels, and can reportedly be heard by a cow that’s 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) away. Jinton first heard the call during a school field trip to a museum when she was twelve years old.

calling cows with Scandinavian song
Pronounced ‘coolning,’ kulning is a contraction of the words ‘Kuh’ (cow) and ‘lock’ (to call or coax). It has other names in neighboring countries, including kauking in parts of Norway. Jinton demonstrates the singing technique again in the video below. She explains:

The sounds of cowbells in the quiet evening is one of the best sounds I know. And I love the feelings of seeing them running towards me as i sing. Especially when I see my favorite cow, Stjärna (star). She is always the first one coming.


Watch Grace Lehane play her concertina for the cattle in Kilmichael Cork. Plus: French cows love listening to jazz.

Bonus: More videos in Sweden.

h/t Kottke.

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