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Uri canton (Switzerland)

Last modified: 2006-07-27 by pascal gross
Keywords: switzerland | uri | canton | bull |
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[Flag of Uri]
by António Martins

See also:

Description of the flag

Or, a bull's head caboshed sable, langued and noseringed gules.

On a yellow field, a bull's head with no neck, seen face on, with a red tongue and a red nose ring. That's the official part, but heraldic artists can take liberties beyond that. The inside of the bull's ears and the outline of the eyes are sometimes rendered in red. Like all cantonal banners, this flag is derived from a war flag and is square.

Pascal Gross

Blazon by Mühlemann (1991): In Gelb ein schwarzer Stierkopf mit roter Zunge und rotem Nasenring.

António Martins, 28 June 2000

Variant of the Flag

[Flag of Uri]
by Pascal Gross

To illustrate the "liberties taken by the heraldic artists", this illustration comes from Achermann (1990).  Here the bull seems to have eaten a bit more and looks somewhat better this way.  It contrasts with the more commonly seen rather skinny shape of the bull's head, shown at the top of this page and known on a flag dating from the XVth century.

Pascal Gross, 19 June 2001

Symbolism of the flag

The black and yellow are taken from the black eagle on yellow field of the Holy Roman Empire, and the substitution of a bull is perhaps a pun. The bull is actually an aurochs, a now extinct European bison, thought to have been plentiful in Uri and domesticated by the locals (hence the nose ring). To the original Helvetes (Celts), the bull was a royal symbol and a symbol of their god Cernunnos. Urners (people of Uri) have long been teased by other Swiss that the nose ring signified they were wildmen who had to be tamed. ("Ur" means wilderness, and Bos Urus is Latin for aurochs. The ring was originally gold, meaning it was an "augmentation of honour". (According to legend, a pope granted this honour for military services rendered.)

History of the flag

The Uri flag is thought to have been in existence since at least 1231 when King Heinrich, son of Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich II, granted the region "imperial freedom". This meant they were sovereign and owed no feudal allegiance to anybody but the emperor and that they were entitled to their own flag. The flag was definitely carried at the battles of Mortgarten (1315) and Laupen (1339). A flag carried in those battles is preserved in the townhall of Altdorf.

T.F. Mills, 15 October 1997

The bull's head is called Uristier, meaning aurochs, Bos uris, which was domesticated by the original settlers. The red ring was originally gold. Uri citizens have been teased that the the nose ring represents the fact that the people of Uri had to be tamed. The bull has Celtic origins, representing royalty and a personification of the deity Cernunnos, who bore stag antlers.

Source: Angst (1992), "A Panoply of Colours: The Cantonal Banners of Switzerland and the Swiss National Flag"

Phil Nelson, 14 October 1998

Flaggen, Knatterfahnen and Livery Colours




[livery colours]

by Pascal Gross

Flaggen are vertically hoisted from a crossbar in the manner of gonfanon, in ratio of about 2:9, with a swallowtail that indents about 2 units. The chief, or hoist (square part) usually incorporates the design from the coat of arms - not from the flag. The fly part is always divided lengthwise, usually in a bicolour, triband or tricolour pattern (except Schwyz which is monocolour, and Glarus which has four stripes of unequal width). The colours chosen for the fly end are usually the main colours of the coat of arms, but the choice is not always straight forward.

Knatterfahnen are similar to Flaggen, but hoisted from the long side and have no swallow tail. They normally show the national, cantonal or communal flag in their chiefs.

Željko Heimer, 16 July 2000