Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

Can sheep be protected from bears in the Pyrenees? Yes, says Catherine Brunet

Thursday, December 28th, 2017
Tarasconnaises sheep

Tarasconnaises sheep


It is twenty years since bears were first reintroduced into the Pyrenees and yet the question of how to protect sheep is still being debated. Some breeders assert that a shepherd permanently on site with a patou (guard dog) and who brings his sheep together at night will have minimal losses, particularly when compared with natural mortality. This is the authorities’ official line.

Others, notably in Couserans (Ariège), say that cohabitation with bears is not possible especially in areas where the slopes are steep and rocky. The flocks disperse into smaller units (escabots) in search of sustenance. Some shepherds have tried to follow the official recommendations and report difficulties.


Rewilding the Pyrenees: news about bears

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017


Last Saturday I went to a meeting of farmers, politicians and officials called to discuss the effect of bears on sheep farming in the Pyrenees. There are now about forty brown bears in the massif following two waves of reintroductions over the last twenty years. Their presence is still controversial, particularly in Ariège where the meeting was held. Ensauvagement, rewilding, is a dirty word in some quarters.

To my mind, there were two significant developments at the meeting which went by the name of the États-Généraux du Pastoralisme. One was the announcement of a scientific investigation into whether the government-recommended measures to protect livestock really are useful. And the second was the President of the Ariège council’s announcement that he could envisage, albeit reluctantly, that the bears are here to stay.


The famous video in which a group of armed men dressed in balaclavas threaten to “restart bear-hunting in Ariege”


The discussions started in the morning but it wasn’t until the Prefect [the government official responsible for overseeing the department] had left that things started to heat up. During the final plenary session, a man who had just arrived asked for the microphone. He grabbed the attention of the audience by mentioning “the famous video that you have all seen, with the guns” and then went on to say that bears had no place in the Pyrenees. The audience clapped and a few minutes later he left. For him, that was all there was to it.


Dog and lamb

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017
Jazz, patou by trade, and a very young lamb

Jazz, patou by trade, and a very young lamb

Normally dogs need to be kept away from lambs. But here guard dogs, known as patous, are brought up with the flock. They think of themselves as sheep and will defend the flock from intruders.

21st-century Pyrenees (v): technology

Sunday, May 1st, 2016
Clinometer: my favourite app for estimating the risk of avalanches

Clinometer: my favourite app for estimating the risk of avalanches

Like the cities, the Pyrenees have been invaded by technology, of which the mobile phone is the most important element. In the valleys; above 2200m, except near ski resorts, forget it.

Clinometer for Android phones 

Next on my list is the GPS. Not only for walkers, but also for animals. From time to time one of the thirty or so brown bears will be equipped with a transmitter to see what it is up to. The same applies to goats. If they move less than 200m in an hour they are resting; 200-1000m means they are grazing; more than 1000m and you need to get out there and round them up. Much the same applies for dogs which don’t come home after the hunt. A good hunting dog is worth tracking down.

Any self-respecting ibex will have a GPS necklace which will enable the support team to locate it. Many are also equipped with radio transmitters.


Ibex 2.0

Ibex in Ariège, with a high-tech necklace © Jordi Estèbe, Parc naturel régional des Pyrénées Ariégeoises



21st-century Pyrenees (iv): Farming methods

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

It seems to me that selling direct to the consumer, which has developed enormously in Britain in the last few years, has yet to have a significant impact in the Pyrenees. But there are changes to be seen.


If the cows won’t go to the milking shed then the shed will have to go to them

If the cows won’t go to the milking shed then the shed will have to go to them


I came across this mobile milking shed near the Col de Pause in Ariège. The farmer explained that, as the season advances, the cows move higher up the hill in search of fresh grass. Instead of bringing them all the way down to the farm for milking, he moves the milking shed progressively higher.


What are the restrictions on dogs in the Pyrenees?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
Walking and dogs in national and natural parks

What are the restrictions on dog walking in the Pyrenees?

In general there are few restrictions on dog walking in the Pyrenees, except in National Parks, Natural Parks and Reserves (see below for details). In some of these areas dogs must be kept on a lead; in others they are prohibited. Even when there are no specific rules, dog owners need to be aware that stray dogs are the second most important cause of death for sheep in the Pyrenees (after sickness). A shepherd has the right to kill any dog which menaces his flock.

The only dogs which are allowed to roam freely are the patous, specially trained sheep guard dogs. If your dog approaches a flock guarded by a patou it will attack.

Patou des Pyrénées

Patous are the only dogs which can be left alone with sheep


map of GR10

site designed by Archétype Informatique: création de site internet, Narbonne