Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Shepherding is one of the oldest professions, beginning some 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. Sheep were kept for their milk, meat, and especially their wool. Over
the next millennia sheep and shepherding spread throughout Eurasia.
Some sheep were integrated in the family farm along with other animals such as pigs and chickens. To maintain a large herd, however, the sheep must be able to
move from pasture to pasture, this required the development of a profession separate from that of the farmer. The duty of shepherds was to keep their flock intact
and protect it from predators, such as wolves and keas. The shepherd was also to supervise the migration of the flock and ensured they made it to market areas in
time for shearing. In ancient times shepherds also often milked their sheep, and made cheese from this milk.
In many societies shepherds were an important part of the economy. Unlike farmers, shepherds were often wage earners, being paid to watch the sheep of others.
Shepherds also lived apart from society, being largely nomadic. It was mainly a job of solitary males without children, and new shepherds thus needed to be recruited
externally. Shepherds were most often the younger sons of farming peasants who did not inherit any land. Still in other societies, each family would have a family
member to shepherd its flock, often a child, youth or an elderly who couldn't help much with a harder work; these shepherds were fully integrated in society.
Shepherds would normally work in groups either looking after one large flock, or each bringing their own and merging their responsibilities. They would live in small
cabins, often shared with their sheep and would buy food from local communities. Less often shepherds lived in covered wagons that traveled with their flocks.