January 30, 2013

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

I am trying simply to verify a fact: do shepherds "lead" from in front, or "shepherd"* (i.e., "guide and direct") from behind or the midst of the flock? Scripture (Isaiah 40:11) seems to say that a shepherd can "lead" nursing ewes by carrying a lamb — which makes sense — but I suspect that simply walking in front of sheep and expecting them to follow is a bit optimistic! The intertubes provide no reliable evidence one way or t'other, offering completely conflicting opinions with great confidence. Any real shepherd care to comment?
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

* the English word "lead" in relation to a flock is often used for the Hebrew or Greek "shepherd" as a verb. I think in English when one says one is "shepherding," for example, a project, it does not mean walking in front of it and "leading" it, but rather tending to it and moving it along. Hence my question.

12 comments:

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

http://www.sheep101.info/201/handling.html (which I found by Googling "how does a shepherd lead sheep") suggests that the answer depends on the details of the particular sheep. Sometimes you would lead them, sometimes drive them from behind, depending on the sheep's proclivities, whether you have helpers or dogs, etc.

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Thomas, for that link. I initially googled "do shepherds lead" which produced the very mixed bag of results, some saying one thing and some another. This site seems to clarify that in general a shepherd needs to "drive" the sheep unless using, as the site notes, a feed bucket or a "lead sheep." This gels rather nicely with the citation from Isaiah, in which the lamb is also an obvious point of focus for the nursing ewe.

Mary Sue said...

My experience on my grandparent's sheep ranch is you have to drive them.

And getting them to all go in the same direction is a tall order.

And woe betide the 60lb 8 year old who gets between a 150lb ewe and whatever it is she wants!

Judith said...

my daughter told me about a sermon she heard in Wyoming, when she lived in a small town there: one summer, the kids were allowed to adopt the "bum" lambs, and raised them. The adults forgot and rounded up the adopted lambs with the rest as they headed out to summer pasturage; the children were heartbroken, so the adults (expecting failure) took the kids up to where the sheep all were. The kids stood around the herd, each called the lamb they'd raised--and all those lamb-children-by-adoption came to the sound of their master's voice.

I forwarded your question to Wyoming via my daughter; here's the response:

To answer your question about either leading or driving sheep--it depends on where you are. In the MidEast they did (do) literally lead the sheep. As I have been told by one whom I figure would know what he is talking about. In the MidEast countries, the shepherd goes in front of the flock and they follow. Each shepherd as a particular sound he makes (whistles, tongue clicks, etc) and his sheep recognize and respond to that call.

Here in the West the shepherd drives the sheep and has at least two dogs, sometimes three to help him. One major difference for leading or driving depends on how large the "flock" might be. Here in the West, the summer bands that go to the mountains are usually 1000-1500 sheep per band. Winter bands are 2,000-3,000. MidEastern flocks, as I understand it, are about 200-300 flocks. That's a much more intimate group.
---
thank you for your blog.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Mary Sue, and Judith. There is some reference to the voice recognizing in the article that Thomas cited -- that the sheep can be trained to respond to a rattle or whistle that they've come to associate with pasture or food. I love Mary Sue's story, though, as it seems some imprinting might take effect, too.

I think there is some variety of styles even in the Middle East -- I've seen pictures of shepherds urging sheep on from behind -- so this may also have to do with the size of the flock as well. Thanks for your stories!

richclarkson said...

My sister lives in Niger and she says that there the shepherds definitely lead the sheep rather than driving them. They once went to a local shepherding competition where one of the challenges was for two shepherds to run with their flocks following them so that the two flocks crossed paths. The winner was the one whose sheep all followed them and didn't join the other flock!

JCF said...

Doesn't one herd the way a border collie does---from all around them!

Unknown said...

I think I recall Evelyn Underhill using the metaphor of a sheep dog for Jesus.

James Mackay
evensong2@gmail.com

Marshall Scott said...

I think it also depends on the dog. As I understand it, some dogs - I'm thinking particularly of pulis and soe others that are white and fluffy - live among the flock, and essentially become the alpha "rams" and "ewes" of the flock. So, they lead rather than drive.

John-Julian Swanson, OJN said...

One other dimension of shepherding is its utter and sheer loneliness in the high pastures.
When I was young the family took a camping trip to Wyoming. (My father had been a Wyoming sheep herder for a summer in high school to free up the adult to serve in World War I.) As we came over a rise on a back road in the Bighorn Mountains, there was a shepherd by the side of the road. We stopped—it happens that he had broken his arm three days before and we were the first car over that road since then. He was extremely grateful for the ride! (And after a long summer in the mountains as a shepherd, my father would never again eat lamb!)

WSJM said...

(I'm a city boy, what do I know about sheepherding?!)

One summer when I was a teenager I was with my family on vacation in New Mexico. We were on a secondary road that led to some scenic attraction, and there was a bridge across a deep gorge. As we approached we saw a flock of sheep being moved from one side of the gorge to the other, across the bridge. The two human shepherds were just sitting in their pickup truck (smoking cigarettes as I recall); the work was being done by the sheepdogs (yes, JCF, exactly so!). The senior sheepdog was perched on the roof of the pickup cab, watching the proceedings and occasionally barking instructions to his junior assistants. It was an amazing sight! I have frequently used this story in sermons on John 10.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Frs J-J and W! Looks like there's as much variety on this as the Intertubes showed...