HERDING


Pierre Trolliet with Dari des Transhumants Note how close to the sheep the dog is working.

The Pyrenean Shepherd has herded sheep and other livestock in the Pyrenees Mountains for perhaps 8,000 years. Responsible grazing in the sparse meadows of the Pyrenees Mountains requires that the dog allow the flock to spread out, rather than remain tightly bunched. Similarly, when the flock passes over craggy hillcrests, they do not proceed as one large group, but spread out over the terrain - sometimes following single-file. As these sheep were milked every day, the Pyr Shep style allows for close handing of the livestock. This has produced a working style very unlike that of a Border Collie, which was bred to work much more flighty sheep. Thus, the Pyr Shep is very versatile - a jack of all trades driving, fetching, shedding, etc sheep. goats, cattle, I've even heard of them herding pigs!

Taking the sheep over a bridge with no guard rail in a competition held in the Pyrenees Mountains Each year the RACP puts on its own herding trial at Cirque d'Aneou.


Veronique Farnoux with Jalousie de Font d'Andiol
 



In Spring, the sheep are decked out in bright colors and patterns for the beginning of the transhumance and paraded through the streets.

Since the sheep are kept primarily for milk and wool, a ewe will live in a flock for several years and shepherd, dog, and sheep come to know each other very well.






Above: In the lower valleys, sheepherding tasks are generally similar to those done by all sheepdogs.
 


As summer wears on, the flock is taken higher & higher into the mountains. This is where the Pyr Shep needs his energy, endurance, surefootedness, strength of will, and independent judgement.


The Border Collie diaspora finally hit the Pyrenees in the 1980s. Since then, it is not too unusual to see farmers who use BCs for the farm chores and Pyr Sheps for the high mountain work (where BCs do not do well at all). Until BCs hit the Pyrenees, you could pretty much count on any sheepdog you saw being a purebred Pyr Shep. But I picked up this postcard in the Pyrenees in 2001. The dog looks like a BC x Pyr Shep cross to me...
 


Above: the shepherd walks ahead of the flock while the dog brings up the rear & watches for cars.

The traditional lifestyle of itinerant shepherds and their dogs did not include fences or cars. But the 20th century brought new challenges and new management practices.
   
 




Young Pyr Sheps passing the herding instinct test at the 2000 RACP Natl Specialty under judge Pierre Legatte. They may look a little green now, but they'll do fine.
 

Besides, how many sheepdogs can do this....?

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