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The Stilt Walking Shepherds of Landes

WOW...... Is this for real?

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Owlscrying
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 3:21 am

Unread post Wed Sep 06, 2017 3:32 am

The Landes region of southwestern France, bordering the Bay of Biscay, is covered by a large pine forest. In fact, it’s the largest ‘maritime pine’ forest in Europe—’maritime pine’ is a species native to the Mediterranean region. But a hundred years ago, the landscape looked very different. Instead of forests, there was a great level of plain that stretched from horizon to horizon. This plain was covered with stunted bushes and dry heath that were periodically burned off by the local population to create grazing land for sheep. Around the middle of the 19th century, there were an estimated one million sheep in this area.

The sheep were managed by shepherds who moved around on long stilts. Using stilts had several advantages. It extended their field of vision allowing them to survey distant flocks of sheep. Tall stilts also increased their stride allowing them to cover long distances in less time. Most importantly, it allowed them to traverse the soft, marshy ground that the plains became after the slightest rainfall. As a matter of fact, practically the entire population of Landes walked on slits to avoid the soggy ground during rainy days. This system of locomotion was so effective that men on stilts could keep up with horses at full trot.

The locals called this unique mode of transportation tchangues, which means "big legs". The stilts made of wood are about five feet high and are provided with a shoulder and strap to support the foot. The upper part of the wood is flattened and rests against the leg, where it is held by a strong strap. The lower part which rests upon the earth is enlarged and is sometimes strengthened with a sheep's bone. The shepherd carries a staff which he uses as a point of support for getting on to the stilts, and also as a crook for directing his flocks. The stilt is so stable and comfortable that the shepherd, perched upon the high seat, would often knit to pass his time. Habituated from their childhood by this sort of exercise many shepherds developed extraordinary skills of acrobatism and maneuverability. They can pick up a pebble from the ground, pluck a flower, simulate a fall and quickly recover, run on one foot, and so on.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Wed Sep 06, 2017 3:33 am

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Shepherds of Landes with their distinctive sheepskin coats, circa 1936.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Wed Sep 06, 2017 3:35 am



Shepherds of Hossegor - who almost live on stilts, owing to marshy nature of the country - perform traditional dances in honour of visiting congress of native authors (Filmed For First Time)."

 
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