For today’s EU sheep and wool Wovember Words post we are in the country of Luxembourg, where the word for sheep is Schof, and where the word for wool is Woll.

According to Eurostat, in 2010 (the last date for which sheep population numbers in Luxembourg are noted) there were 7.5 thousand sheep in Luxembourg, making it the EU country with the smallest number of sheep. According to Wikipedia:

[Luxembourg] is bordered by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south. Its capital, Luxembourg City, is, together with Brussels and Strasbourg, one of the three official capitals of the European Union and the seat of the European Court of Justice, the highest juridical instance in the EU. Its culture, people and languages are highly intertwined with its neighbors, making it essentially a mixture of French and Germanic cultures. The repeated invasions by its neighbor countries, especially in World War II, resulted in the country’s strong will for mediation between France and Germany and led to the foundation of the European Union.

The sheep breeds that we found while researching sheep and wool in Luxembourg reflect its geographic situation.

Moorschnuckenherde - photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Corradox
Moorschnuckenherde – photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Corradox

For example this nature reserve describes its flocks of Moorschnucke – a small, hornless landrace sheep originating in Germany – and the Red Ardennes sheep – Ardennais Roux – originating in Ardenne. Ardenne is a hilly forested region that has grown up around the remnants of an ancient mountain range and it includes parts of France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Friends of the Earth, Belgium (Les Amis de le Terre), describe the Red Ardennes sheep thusly:

Ardennes sheep herds once populated South of the Meuse, the French Ardennes and the German Eiffel. The population has declined with the gradual planting of spruce, especially during the nineteenth century and the breed disappeared completely from the Ardenne in the late 1950s. Some animals were fortunately saved in Flanders, where they are called “Ardense Voskop”.

These excellent sheep are an integral part of our living heritage. A lot of very old paintings and texts provide evidence for this; in the works of the Belgian painter Eugène Joseph Verboeckhoven who lived from 1799 to 1881, we can see the Red Ardennes sheep represented at that time exactly as we can still see it today.

Sheep in their fold: painting by Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven 1857
Sheep in their fold: painting by Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven 1857
Mouton Ardennais Roux - photo found on Friends of the Earth, Belgium website here
Mouton Ardennais Roux today – photo found on Friends of the Earth, Belgium website here

The Ardennes lamb is born completely red. At the age of three months, a beige wool fleece begins to cover the lamb’s body. The head and legs remain red. Adult sheep are around 70cm at the shoulder, ewes and rams weighing about 55kg and 80kg respectively. They sometimes have horns and often have a mane of red hair. The tail of the Ardennes sheep is long and wool covered.

It is a lively and distrustful sheep which must be coaxed with food pellets and grains if frantic chases are to be avoided when changing plots for annual grazing, or when checking hooves and teeth.

As well as having connections to this old breed of sheep, Luxembourg hosts a large festival – Schueberfouer – which has its origins in an annual agricultural fair. It was founded on 20th October 1340 by John I of Luxembourg, better known as John the Blind, King of Bohemia and Count of Luxembourg. According to this website “the origins of the Fouer lie in the Middle Ages, when peasants and locals were allowed to host a harvest feast in Luxembourg. Farmers from across the region would come together, offering their flock. They were given military protection seven days before and seven days after the fair to travel in safety.”

Luxembourg. Unknown Band, 1909 - photo found on Wiki Commons and given into the Public Domain
Luxembourg. Unknown Band, 1909 – photo found on Wiki Commons and given into the Public Domain

The Schueberfouer traditionally begins with a parade that includes sheep and a marching band, playing the “Hämmelsmarsch” or Mutton March.

Den Hämmelsmarsch - photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to GilPe
Den Hämmelsmarsch – photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to GilPe
Den Hämmelsmarsch - photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to GilPe
Den Hämmelsmarsch – photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to GilPe
Den Hämmelsmarsch - photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to GilPe
Den Hämmelsmarsch – photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to GilPe

The Luxembourgian sculptor Wil Lofy has commemorated this parade with a statue featuring musicians and sheep.

Another sheep-themed sculpture or artwork that we at Wovember feel must be drawn to your attention is a more recent project titled ‘Die Blauschäferei’ which means ‘The Blue Flock’. In 2012, The Blue Flock Art Project came to graze at the Place Guillaume II in Luxembourg after being in the other two capitals of Europe: Brussels and Strasbourg. Created by the German artists Rainer Bonk and Bertamaria Reetz, this is a global conceptual art project, devised to promote mutual understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence. To this end, a flock of 50 – 150 ultra-marine identical polyester resin sheep has been traveling around major European cities and landmarks since 2009. Each sheep has “Alle sind gleich – Jeder ist wichtig“ – “All men are equal – Each and Everyone is important” embossed on its forelegs. Their blue colouring represents the idea of European unity, recalling ‘the colour of the European union, United Nations, Unesco and also the colour of the European peace movement‘. According to the project website:

The Blue Sheep embody that which we have in common, advocating solidarity and social responsibility through the recognition that each of us is equal and important.

blaue Schafe in Bielefeld from Filmhaus Bielefeld on Vimeo.

In the video above can see the sheep from when they traveled to the Kunsthalle Bielefeld in Germany. We at Wovember will always have reservations about woolly sheep being made from plastic! However, the image of a flock of sheep produced to promote ideas of peaceful togetherness and tolerance is something we can always get behind.

As ever, please let us know if we have made any errors in translation, and we hope that you (and the blue sheep of peace and solidarity) have enjoyed your brief trip to Luxembourg.

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