Every year at the end of summer, livestock herders in the state of Idaho, in the US, guide thousands of sheep through hundreds of kilometers in a route stretching from the Sawtooth Mountains in the north to the winter pastures of the Snake River Valley in the south. The Trailing of the Sheep, as the event is called, marks the end of the four-day festival organized in the town of Ketchum, that celebrates the rich and colorful history and culture of sheepherding in the western United States. The sheep are accompanied by historic sheep wagons and dancers and participants from the Folklife Fair.
Sheep ranching began in south west region of Idaho in the late 1860’s when John Hailey, a Tennessee immigrant and key figure in early Idaho politics, brought the first sheep into the Wood River Valley. At that time, there were only 14,000 breeding sheep in the whole of Idaho. In less than 60 years, the sheep population swelled to 2.65 million, almost six times the state's human population. Ketchum became a major sheep center, second only to Sydney, Australia.
In spring, the sheep migrate north from the lower elevations of the Snake River plain of Southern Idaho, traveling in bands of close to 1,500 sheep, through the Wood River Valley to summer high mountain pastures. This route takes them up Highway 75 through the populated, residential areas and the towns of Bellevue, Hailey and Ketchum. Some continue their journey over Galena summit into the Sawtooth Mountains. In the fall, the animals retrace this trail to greener fields in the south, and it is this return migration that is celebrated as the Trailing of the Sheep Festival.
Aside from the sheep parade, the festival holds events such as Sheep Dog Championship, a Folklife Fair, lamb cooking classes, lamb tastings, sheep photography classes, lectures about sheep, and traditional dancing and merry making.
Visit the official website for dates and more information.
Subscribe to our Newsletter and get articles like this delivered straight to your inbox