A type of Swiss melody, traditionally played on the Alpenhorn or sung in order to call cows scattered over the mountainside.
The melody is characterized by the reiteration of short phrases and usually contains an element of improvisation, each district having its own version.
Late 18th century; earliest use found in Charles Burney (1726–1814), musician and author. From French regional (Switzerland) ranz des vaches from ranz, regional variant (Switzerland) of rang + des of the (plural) + the plural of vache cow, after German regional (Switzerland) Kuhreihen, lit. ‘cow dance’, apparently with the second element misapprehended as Reihe.