Inspired by a similar project in France, professional sheepherders in the French-Canadian city of Montreal made a deal with officials to bring seven sheep to a city park back in 2016. The program’s success has allowed them to expand, and today they are Biquette à Montreal, a non-profit organization that promotes eco-grazing and urban agriculture.
The 16 participating sheep leave their barn for “work” at nine in the morning and are free to roam and graze at Parc Maisonneuve while rotating groups of at least three shepherds supervise them until it’s time to call it a day at seven in the evening. The project lasts throughout all the summer months, ending in September.
Laurence Sauvageu-Fresco, who initially started volunteering in 2018, now oversees over 100 volunteers for Biquette. She knows each sheep by name, from Jupiter to KitKat, and offers yoga classes in the park so that participants can practice and hopefully be joined by a few sheep.
“If you sometimes sit on the ground and you’re calm, having a picnic, or doing yoga there, there are more chances that they will come close,” she says. “Sometimes the shepherds help to bring them around when there’s a class.”
However, the sheep don’t just offer their friendly curiosity, they also have an important job to do. They keep the grass clean-cut, give the city dwellers an opportunity to feel closer to nature, and maintain peace.
“They’re not compacting the ground like lawnmowers, they’re not scaring all the birds, all the wildlife around because they’re not as noisy,” Sauvageau-Fresco says.
There is a high demand for sheep in other parks around the city, but the project requires a lot of organization and volunteers. They are hoping to expand and build a bigger mobile barn and have started an online fundraiser to help cover the costs.