Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Shepherds and Berets

shepherd, or sheepherder, is a person who tends, feeds, or guards flocks of sheep. The word stems from an amalgam of sheep herder.
Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations, beginning some 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. Sheep were kept for their milkmeat and especially their wool. Over the next millennia, sheep and shepherding spread throughout Eurasia.
Coincidentally, it were the shepherds on the Pyrenees northern slopes who invented the beret - a headgear still very much worn by shepherds, on both sides of the Pyrenees.
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. 
In modern times, shepherding has changed dramatically. The abolition of common lands in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth century moved shepherding from independent nomads to employees of massive estates. Some families in Africa and Asia have their wealth in sheep, so a young son is sent out to guard them while the rest of the family tend to other chores. In the USA, many sheep herds are flocked over public BLM lands.
 Here a nice collection of bereted shepherds from both sides of the Pyrenees Mountains. 
And the best picture comes last, from Aragon in Spain.

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