GRUYÈRE (Ger. Greyerz), a district in the south-eastern portion of the Swiss canton of Fribourg, famed for its cattle and its cheese, and the original home of the “Ranz des Vaches,” the melody by which the herdsmen call their cows home at milking time. It is composed of the middle reach (from Montbovon to beyond Bulle) of the Sarine or Saane valley, with its tributary glens of the Hongrin (left), the Jogne (right) and the Trême (left), and is a delightful pastoral region (in 1901 it contained 17,364 cattle). It forms an administrative district of the canton of Fribourg, its population in 1900 being 23,111, mainly French-speaking and Romanists. From Montbovon (11 m. by rail from Bulle) there are mountain railways leading S.W. past Les Avants to Montreux (14 m.), and E. up the Sarine valley past Château d’Oex to Saanen or Gessenay (14 m.), and by a tunnel below a low pass to the Simme valley and Spiez on the Lake of Thun. The modern capital of the district is the small town of Bulle [Ger. Boll], with a 13th-century castle and in 1900 3330 inhabitants, French-speaking and Romanists. But the historical capital is the very picturesque little town of Gruyères (which keeps its final “s” in order to distinguish it from the district), perched on a steep hill (S.E. of Bulle) above the left bank of the Sarine, and at a height of 2713 ft. above the sea-level. It is only accessible by a rough carriage road, and boasts of a very fine old castle, at the foot of which is the solitary street of the town, which in 1900 had 1389 inhabitants.
The castle was the seat of the counts of the Gruyère, who are first mentioned in 1073. The name is said to come from the word gruyer, meaning the officer of woods and forests, but the counts bore the canting arms of a crane (grue), which are seen all over the castle and the town. That valiant family ended (in the legitimate line) with Count Michel (d. 1575) whose extravagance and consequent indebtedness compelled him in 1555 to sell his domains to Bern and Fribourg. Bern took the upper Sarine valley (it still keeps Saanen at its head, but in 1798 lost the Pays d’En-Haut to the canton du Léman, which in 1803 became the canton of Vaud). Fribourg took the rest of the county, which it added to Bulle and Albeuve (taken in 1537 from the bishop of Lausanne), and to the lordship of Jaun in the Jaun or Jogne valley (bought in 1502–1504 from its lords), in order to form the present administrative district of Gruyère, which is not co-extensive with the historical county of that name.
See the materials collected by J. J. Hisely and published in successive vols. of the Mémoires et documents de la suisse romande . . . introa. à l’hist. (1851); Histoire (2 vols., 1855–1857); and Monuments de l’histoire (2 vols., 1867–1869); K. V. von Bonstetten, Briefe über ein schweiz. Hirtenland (1781) (Eng. trans., 1784); J. Reichlen, La Gruyère illustrée (1890), seq.; H. Raemy, La Gruyère (1867); and Les Alpes fribourgeoises, by many authors (Lausanne, 1908). (W. A. B. C.)