Sunday, 8 May 2016

Sepia Saturday 329; 07/05/2016 A Shepherd;

 Altay Mountains in Mongolia, Kazakh nomads photo  Tariq Sawyer, National Geographic.
"This photo was taken on the first morning I spent with the nomads. Waking up to experience a harsh spring blizzard, I respected the family’s resilience to the subzero temperatures and freezing winds as they continued their daily routine.
I imagine, it might have looked like this when the shepherders and their flocks from Italy came over the mountains to Switzerland.

From the 13th century until 1897 Bergamasco shepherders from Italy brought regularly every year sheep  across the Bernina Pass and the Bregaglia Valley to the summer pastures of the Engadine in Switzerland.
Around 1870 around 25000 to 40000 sheep were brought over summer to these very sought after pastures.
The Bergamasco sheep was a large, powerful animal and was the only dairy sheep.
The milk of the sheep together with goats milk and cow milk was made into 2 pound cheeses. The shepherders lived in alpine huts where they also made the cheese.  The shepherd’s food was  very simple, Polenta cooked in water with added cheese,  If a sheep had to be slaughtered, because of an accident, they  dried the meat, as it is still done today in the Saas-valley. The meat would be sold  later in Italy. 
Meat and wool were coarse-grained;
The wool was processed in Italy to coarse cloths and carpets. In autumn  the herd returned to Italy mainly to Lombardy.

In the second half of the 19th century, the people started to  rebel against bringing the sheep to their pastures, because of introducing epidemics and diseases. Also a lot of damage to the forest and pastures occurred.
The federal health measures  and regulation of l.Juli
1886 put a stop to the Bergamasker shepherding , from then on the flocks became less frequent.
 At the end of the century they disappeared completely. 
Apart from the herds from Italy, 
also German migrant flocks, mainly of Württemberg,  were brought  over summer to the Central Plateau and the Jura in a permanent migration, as no land was leased and payed for. The herds were moved on to Paris and arrived there every year regularly during the Easter week. 

An article about a shepherder, Luigi Cominelli. You might have to translate this interview, with Google.

Please visit other shepherders, sheep, dogs and may be old fences!

Sepia Saturday 329 : 7 May 2016


  1. The story of the Bergamasco shepherding was new to me , so thank you for this and the evocative painting.

    1. Over winter there is still shepherding in SWL. Only local sheep. Now there are schools to learn the skills of shepherding.

  2. Looking at that shepherd and all those sheep makes me cold -- what an endeavor! Great post, interesting information here.

    1. Deb Gould, thank you. I looks freezing for man and beast!

  3. What an interesting piece of history. That picture really points up how hard the life of the shepherd is.

    1. SWL has still shepherding over the winter month when pastures are free. Where I lived, on the side of the house was a free pasture and a shepherd came every winter to graze the sheep there for 2-3 days, he had a dog and a donkey. I always gave him some hot soup, he enjoyed it.

  4. It looks so cold in that picture! Lucky the sheep have all that wool to keep their bodies warm. Not sure about their poor feet? The poor shepherd on the other hand . . . What a tough life!

    1. Yes, it is a tough job and a lonely life. But some like it and want it that way. Especially today young people spend time on the alps over summer to help with herding the cattle. Herding the sheep is done only over the winter month, as the pastures are free to graze. When there is to much snow the shepherds must buy food from the local farmers, which is expensive.

  5. That sounds like a very harsh environment for both the sheep and their herders. There is a movie doing the rounds at the moment called Rams, about two Icelandic brothers and their sheep which is pretty harrowing but worth seeing all the same.