Mouton

Ok, I have acquired at least one new French word – “mouton” means “sheep”! And that introduction lets me introduce you to the sheep of the day – the Merinos of Rambouillet!

Brief history lesson. In 1783 Louis XVI of France founded the Bergerie Nationale at Rambouillet about an hour southwest of Paris, the first national experimental farm for plants and animals from around the world. Pertinent to us, at this time France’s wool quality was not good. So, the king decided to ask Charles III of Spain who authorized the sale of 400 Spanish Merinos to France from their seven best flocks of 1786. 360 ewes and 40 rams were walked from Spain to Rambouillet. Yes, walked (I guess they didn’t have livestock carriers and this walking thing seems to be a thing – remember the mountain sheep of Germany from yesterday’s post?)

We arrived in a moderate rain after our bus trip from out hotels.

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We knew we would see some of these special sheep at La Ferme Nationale.

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And we were greeted by this lovely sight.

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The ancestors of these Merino ewes walked for four months that year from summer into fall (apparently with some overnight cross-breeding happening with local sheep during the night!)

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We moved on to look at the rams in the barn. These are the current years breeding rams which are used for about two years (with twice a year breeding) only to preserve breeding lines.

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I loved this guy with his clear interest in food. He reminds me of another rem (wether) who also truly loved his food!

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You will notice a coat on this next guy. They were experimenting with this to protect the fleece from straw and hay but are finding that its use is yellowing the wool. They think this might be due to their wet weather with the coat not allowing good air circulation between the coat and the wool.

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The man in charge of these sheep rounded up a ram so he could show us his wool. The sheep are sheared twice a year and the 6 month fiber length is about 3 cm.

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OK, despite my comment yesterday about white sheep I guess I have to say I DO take their photos occasionally if they are special like these!

I had a chance to ask a couple questions before we moved on which were translated by our guide, Pierre ( on the left with the hat) from the farm manager. (i don’t know why I am smiling. I didn’t understand his answers in French!)

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We were privileged to see two other things. The first, a brief herding demonstration with Border Collie Adin, four time French National Herding Champion.

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The second, the flock book for the Rambouillet Merinos! It is not usually on display and was brought out especially for us to look at.

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We left these sheep and, after being served a very nice lunch…

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…we were taken to Versailles where we spent a pleasant afternoon. I was especially attracted to this area and I think the close up detail of one of the marble columns might inspire a felt piece upon my return home!

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The gardens, buildings, and other outdoor features were beautiful, too, and it really helped to have a break in the rain.

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Dona, of course, found plenty to photograph!

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We were all intrigued by this little guy (girl?) and his friends. After much discussion and an online check, we decided he was a Nutria, a South American rodent who lives near water. He seems to enjoy his food as much as the sheep we saw at Rambouillet!

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After the guides rounded up their errant people “mouton”, we walked some more back to the buses to return to Paris, tired but pleased with our first wooly adventure of the trip.

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Note: As we head out into the French countryside early tomorrow, we are uncertain about our wifi availability. If you do not hear from us do not worry that we have run off to look for even more sheep in other parts of Europe!

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Published in: on May 21, 2014 at 8:52 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Looks wonderful!


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