Sheep are probably the most underestimated animal in the world. Without them, mankind would not be where it is today. Food, clothing – the unpretentious ram has been providing man with all this for eleven thousand years. The animals have made societies grow, they prepared people for culture and to this day they guarantee life and prosperity in many parts of the world. ‘Planet of the Sheep’ goes on a search for traces and clues among shepherds and breeders all over the world.
In Europe, the traditional shepherding profession is on the verge of extinction. In the Lüneburg Heath, only a few shepherds are still on the road with their herds of Heidschnucken to preserve the cultural landscape. Though some old shepherding cultures are still alive, in Sardinia as well as in northern Macedonia living the tradition of transhumance of many thousands of animals. In Scotland, a young, female generation is breaking new ground to save the ancient culture of sheep farming into the 21st century. And in Spain, too, new forms of sheep farming are becoming established: shepherd schools are training a new generation of shepherds.
China is going its own way: here, sheep are kept intensively by the hundreds of thousands to satisfy the population’s hunger. But on a smaller scale, quality of life and often human survival are directly linked to the existence of the sheep – as in Ethiopia, where farmers can finance their children’s schooling thanks to just a few animals. The undemanding sheep is a master of adaptation to almost any environmental condition – and thus probably also a helper in climate change.
Part 1: Out into the World
Part 2: Out into the furture