Greek shepherds

Ascetic figures, with almost biblical faces, surviving in isolated shelters on the highest Mount peaks in Greece.

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Winter is a critical season for sheep herding, having to coping with difficult weather conditions or snow blockades, even in Greece. The sacred Greek mountains reveal poor but stubborn and free people, who go through hard times without losing their pride and dignity.

 
With the plains far behind, the flock will spend few hours grazing on the Mounts along the border with Albania.

With the plains far behind, the flock will spend few hours grazing on the Mounts along the border with Albania.

Everyplace forested mountains rise steeply in Greece, leaving you gasping in awe, it’s where people speak louder with their eyelids than with words.

All prey to wolves…

All prey to wolves…

Tourism has not sucked their lives and souls, codes and shared values continue to pass over one generation to the other by perpetuating symbols of unconquered bucolic temperament.

Greek goats, Albanian shepherds - immigrants who came to Greece back in the 1990s.

Greek goats, Albanian shepherds - immigrants who came to Greece back in the 1990s.

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Beckoned his flock with an ancient whispering shepherding language…

Beckoned his flock with an ancient whispering shepherding language…

 

Mountain shepherds learned to value these hills as their wise and old teacher.

The same shepherds send their shivering pant to the isolated mountain shelters and the vulture dens, from the dead of winter to the midsummer days.

A shepherd's life profoundly describes a way of life deeply-rooted to a place that shapes landscape over time anywhere in this world.

A shepherd's life profoundly describes a way of life deeply-rooted to a place that shapes landscape over time anywhere in this world.

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He shrugs on his coat,

lifts his cap, blackthorn stick and heads out across the fields to count sheep, check how far the floods have risen, break ice for cows at the pond, his hands thick as fencing stakes, swollen, purple with the cold.

Jane Clarke

Landscapes like Greeces’ are the sum total and culmination of a million little unseen jobs.

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Don’t attempt to press your own romanticised image on the harsh shepherding realities.

Don’t attempt to press your own romanticised image on the harsh shepherding realities.

 
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A lyrical meditation on the body in motion and the spirit in communion with nature.

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Deep in Greece’s forested Mountains, the shepherds live on, defying a harsh environment, and remaining loyal to their traditions and way of life in some of the most hard-to-reach parts of the country.

Indomitable and proud, yet noble, they call themselves “free people”, and trace the origins of their predecessors.

Their home is legendary Mount ranges, under which amazing villages are scattered, normally dotted with lush green slopes and surrounded by snow-capped peaks during winter.

Across Greece, shepherds number about 75.000, divided into different groups according to their regions, while they all speak the native whistling language of the shepherds, which has also numerous dialects depending on the province.

Today, they rely on sheep and agriculture as their main sources of income; however they are not traditionally transhumant shepherds, following the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors. Most of them reside by the foothills, closer to the towns, benefiting from modern amenities, yet they still dwell with their sheep and goats in remote mountain cabins with no electricity or running water for the cold days or after crossing long distances durinf pasture.

Some of them, in wintertime, they even face extreme weather conditions. Then, community bands together. On the other hand, on the Greek isles shepherds usually own small donkeys – their mode of transport across the rocky, unpaved road system.

 

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Sheep and Goat Farming facts:


  • 5.000.000 goats and almost 10.000.000 sheep are bred in the county of Greece

  • Greece comes first for goat breeding in the EU

  • in this country there are 90,000 milking cows (a 40% of the milk produce in total)

  • 95,000 tons of goat milk are used for feta production, whereas about 12,000 tons are conusmed for Greek yoghurt

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Although they are invisible in their very own country, no-one can resist on their humility; their lives are devoted to something bigger than themselves – they are in sole charge of the land in addition to their sheep, their work is intertwined closely with the characters and relationships of other farming families, altogether being part of a thousands of years Greek tradition.
 
Wolf attacks can happen even in Greece making shepherds very distressed.

Wolf attacks can happen even in Greece making shepherds very distressed.

They are worried that a sharp rise in wolf attacks may force them to install expensive electric fencing to protect their flocks.

They are worried that a sharp rise in wolf attacks may force them to install expensive electric fencing to protect their flocks.

At dawn Mr Thanasis would load the family donkeys with rusks and vegetables and set off to pasture.

At dawn Mr Thanasis would load the family donkeys with rusks and vegetables and set off to pasture.

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sheepdog round up the flock…

sheepdog round up the flock…

The Greek shepherd is a tough dog breed that helps keep the sheep in formation and protects them from wolves.

The Greek shepherd is a tough dog breed that helps keep the sheep in formation and protects them from wolves.

Mind-numbing rural lifestyle

Mind-numbing rural lifestyle

Shepherding - not a glamorous assignment.

Shepherding - not a glamorous assignment.

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Playing around the fells…

Playing around the fells…

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Authentic ways of life…

Authentic ways of life…

Lost in the tranquility of the mountains - not being surprised about the legends and myths that have developed around these areas.

Lost in the tranquility of the mountains - not being surprised about the legends and myths that have developed around these areas.

The art and science of sheep raising, it’s a celebration of a family, a particular place, and a way of life.
 
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