Swiss Shepherds

14 Apr 2017

Shepherds, or goatherds come to that, go back a very long way, even in the heart of Europe. At www.swissinfo.ch/eng/prehistoric-farming-7000-years-ago--on-a-swiss-alp/... ... we learn that Swiss shepherds, around 5000BC, shifted their animals to high pastures, into mountain valleys (some of which have been covered by glaciers until recently). Pasture was sought out at 2750m above sea level in the SW region of the Alps. Glaciers have come and gone on a number of occasions. For instance, during the Roman period glaciers had retreated much further than today. However, the king of all glacier retreats was during the Mid Holocene Climatic Optimum (roughly 6000 to 4000/3000BC). It is now thought shepherds were able to take their animals, seasonally, to summer mountain pastures that still await glacier melting. 

Summer pasture in upland zones is a common livestock farming practise - or was until modern farming methods kicked in last century. Even in Britain summer pasture was an important economic asset. This is where shepherd huts came in - even the tin ones manufactured during the 19th century.