Sheep May Safely Graze (in the Mountains with Dogs!)

July 2023 – Despite all the dazzling technological advancements in recent years and the ultra fast pace of living these days, there are a few constants that still reach across borders and the passage of time. Raising herds of livestock on vast pastures is one of them.

From biblical times through the Middle Ages to our current era, despite conquests and cultural upheavals and dramatic social shifts, livestock has continued grazing quietly around the world. And surely JS Bach’s musical piece, “Sheep May Safely Graze,” is as vivid a depiction of sheep placidly nibbling on summer grasses as it was when he wrote it in 1713.

Sheep May Safely Graze - In the Mountains With Dogs!

Our furry shepherd…

During our RV trip through Colorado last summer, we were happily camping in the National Forest, minding our own business, when we caught wind from other campers in the area that a flock of sheep was going to be brought in to graze for the summer. How fun!

We had witnessed the thrilling arrival of a huge flock of sheep once before when we were camping in Utah, and we’d gotten a huge kick out of watching the whole process. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before.

RV Camping in the National Forest in Colorado

We were quietly camping when a sheep parade came right by our door!

Sheep like to graze at 10,000’ elevation in the summertime, so they are often driven by truck up into the mountain peaks to enjoy a months-long feast of high elevation grasses and flowers. The flock owners lease the land from the US Forest Service and they hire people to live with the sheep on the mountainsides.

Often these temporary employees are experienced shepherds from Peru that are flown here with special work visas for the summer to camp in the high altitudes of the American West and tend the sheep.

Although we’d been wrapping up our stay and planning to leave, when heard the sheep would be arriving, we decided to stay a little longer to watch the action.

Suddenly, a huge livestock truck rattled down the dirt road, and we could hear the ba-aa-aa of the sheep in the truck. They were making quite a racket!

Sheep livestock truck arrives

A truckload of sheep rolled up!

The truck parked right next to our rig, and we could see little sheep heads peeking out of the openings in the sides of the truck!

Sheep peeks out of livestock trailer in Colorado

“What’s going. on out there?”

Lots of sheep were peering out at us. But we did a double-take when we noticed one of the sheep was actually a fluffy white DOG!

Sheep and dog heads poking out of a sheep livestock trailer in Colorado

Ahem…the one on the right is NOT a sheep!

The dog was a Great Pyrenees. We’ve met a a few of these wonderful dogs before. They are gentle giants. The owners of the flock said it was okay to pet the sheep dog and neither one of us could resist.

Great Pyrenees sheep dogs are raised with their flock outdoors from the time they’re young puppies. So, they get to know and understand sheep very well! They learn their jobs as Guardians of the Sheep from the older sheep dogs in the flock, and they live their whole lives outdoors with the sheep.

Great Pyrenees dog gets a pat on the head in a sheep livestock trailer

“Mmmmm…that feels good!”

The Great Pyrenees have an important job guarding the sheep from predators, but they aren’t the only dogs involved in the sheep management business. Border Collies help the shepherds move the sheep from place to place.

Sure enough, a Border Collie was right there ready to help out. Buddy wanted to know if he could help too, and the owners and dogs said “Sure!” Wow! He was thrilled!

Border collie helps with herding the sheep

This agile Border Collie had the fun job of chasing the flock to move them from one place to another

Dogs at a sheep livestcok trailer in Colorado

“I’m a runner too! I’m ready whenever you are!”

The owners had set up a long chute from the back of the livestock truck over to the pen that would hold the sheep until they were all out of the truck and ready to be moved to a pasture.

The first sheep cautiously looked down the chute, unsure of what to do.

The Border Collie jumped and yipped and the owners clapped and encouraged the sheep to start running down the ramp. The sheep got the idea, and suddenly a whole line of sheep was running down the chute.

Sheep gets ready to run down the chute from a livestock trailer

The border collie did some yipping to encourage the cautious sheep down the ramp.

Line of sheep run down the chute from a livestock trailer in Colorado

And down they ran in a steady stream of woolly white coats.

The sheep were all mamas (ewes) with their lambs, and they were very cute as they trotted down the chute and into the grassy pen!

Sheep run to new grazing grounds in Colorado

“I think the best grass is up ahead!”

Photographing sheep in Colorado

We had a ball watching these sheep running towards their new grazing grounds.

The owners used a small hand counter to count the sheep as they ran out of the truck. It seemed to be a tricky business distinguishing one trotting sheep from another as they passed in a blur of fur, ears and legs.

The sheep had traveled on two levels in the livestock truck. After the sheep on the lower level had been let out, the ramp was attached to the upper level and the sheep on the second floor began to run out.

A sheep jumps from the 2nd level of a livestock trailer

A ramp was set up for a second group of sheep on the upper level.

The owners had a third dog that was their pet. He had the job of Rodeo Clown! He zoomed in and out between all the sheep, in and out of the pen and all around the grass like a madman. He was faster than the Border Collie and probably faster than a speeding bullet! He leapt on and off the chute fencing and did all kinds of acrobatics.

The owners said he was always a little crazy like that. The other dogs paid him no mind, and neither did the sheep!

Sheep grazing in a pen with a happy pup

The owners’ Pet Dog was bursting with excitement. He had the most lighthearted job ever: Rodeo Clown!

Buddy was having an absolute ball as an Apprentice Herder. He seemed to know that he was playing a Junior role, so he never went into the pen with the sheep even though he could have like the other dogs did. He just ran alongside them on the outside of the pen, barking to make them run — and the Pet Dog followed along!

Happy dog runs alongside a sheep pen

Buddy was having a ball in his new role as Apprentice Herder.

Dog excited about sheep in a pen

He just loved getting the sheep to run from one end of the pen to the other.

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In between Buddy’s practice herding runs, the sheep settled into doing some serious grazing. They mowed the grass down by an inch or two in no time!

Sheep grazing in a pen in Colorado

The sheep’s job was to graze.

And in between grazing, life went on for the ewes and their lambs.

Lamb nursing from its mother


At this point we’d forgotten all about the Great Pyrenees sheep dogs, but then we noticed one inside the sheep pen. He stuck his head out under the fencing. There wasn’t a whole lot of Sheep Guarding to be done at the moment, so he seemed a little bored.

Great Pyrenees sheep dog looks out under the fencing of the sheep pen

“I’m on break right now, ’cause there’s not a lot to do!”

When he saw Buddy he perked right up. Here was a new friend!

Sheep dog and pet dog meet over the fence

“Hey there little fella!”

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Suddenly, the Great Pyrenees decided he wanted to be on the outside of the pen. So, jumped up and over the wooden fencing of the chute!

Great Pyrenees sheep dog jumps out of the sheep chute


Great Pyrenees sheep dog jumps out of the sheep chute

…and Over!

I was floored by the agility of this very large dog. The fencing wasn’t all that sturdy, but he leapt on and off of it with ease and grace.

Once he was out with Buddy the two hung out together and kept an eye on things for quite some time.

Dogs guard the sheep pen

“We’ve got this!”

Meanwhile, the Pet Dog wanted to show off a little too. He straddled the chute fencing, almost as a challenge to the Great Pyrenees!

pet dog Rodeo Clown

“Hey, you’re a pretty good jumper, but can you do this?”

Back at the truck, the Border Collie helped the owners make sure that all the sheep had been moved out and there weren’t any stragglers left inside.

Checking out the sheep in a livestock truck

“Yup, one last one and that’s it!”

Finally, it was time to open the sheep pen and move them to their first real grazing grounds. The gate swung wide, and the Border Collie swung into action. He chased them and dashed this way and that as the owners told him what to do with a special high pitched whistle.

Border Collie runs past grazing sheep in a pen

The Border Collie went to work herding the sheep out of the pen, taking cues from the owner’s whistle

The sheep headed out the gate and munched their way across the grass, mowing it down as they went.

Sheep let out of a pen into a pasture

Noses to the grass, the sheep made their way out of the pen.

We followed from a respectful distance and were really surprised when they headed towards the highway. The owner stood in the middle of the highway to stop traffic. And sure enough, before long there was a line of cars and trucks waiting for the sheep to cross the highway!

A flock of sheep crosses the road in Colorado

Make way for ducklings sheep!

A flock of sheep crosses the road in Colorado 2

After a while there was quite a line of cars and trucks waiting for the sheep parade to pass.

Eventually the whole flock had crossed, and they began making their way to the pasture on the far side. This was quite a production!

Sheep moving from one pasture to another

Everyone is across…

We wandered back towards our rig and noticed there was a bit of commotion going on. We peered a little closer and saw a sheep lying motionless in a bed of dandelions. We heard some of the workers talking, and it seemed she had been pushed to one edge of the flock where there were some brambles and a fallen tree in the way. She’d gotten tangled up in the branches as the flock had rushed along, and she’d stumbled and fallen as the other sheep brushed past.

Sheep resting in dandelions

She stumbled and couldn’t keep up with the flock and got left behind.

It wasn’t clear if she was injured or just stunned. The owner carried her over to the flatbed ranch truck and made a space for her in the back. A little while later she traveled in queenly style and seemed to appreciate getting a chauffeured ride back to the ranch. They assured us that she would be fine and just needed some R&R back home. They’d bring her back the flock in a few days.

Sheep gets a special ride back home

She perked up when she got a chauffeured ride home!

Phew! That was a lot of excitement for one afternoon! We caught one of the owners catching a few winks on the sheep ramp.

Resting after a hard day's work

After counting every sheep running past in the flock, it was time to lie down and count a few more sheep with closed eyes and catch some Zzzz’s!

Then the empty livestock truck rattled its way back out to the highway.

Sheep trailer and RV in National Forest in Colorado

What a great day this was!


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A little more about grazing sheep, both here and in Germany almost 300 years ago:

Related blog posts about animals!

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6 thoughts on “Sheep May Safely Graze (in the Mountains with Dogs!)

  1. Fascinating post, Emily! Quite often as we travel, Alan and I get into conversations about the many subcultures in our society of which we know nothing about. (Those conversations are usually followed by a bit of online research in order to expand our knowledge on the topic.) Your experience is a perfect example of that, and it underscores the countless educational opportunities that traveling provides. Love that Buddy! I’m pretty sure that, of all of you, he enjoyed the experience the most. Make way for ducklings, indeed!

    • This was definitely a banner day for Buddy! And like you say, it’s the surprise discoveries of the unknown that make traveling so fulfilling! We can’t believe how much we’ve learned since we began our full-time adventures. We thought we knew a lot when we started, but our knowledge was really narrow in scope. We have grown in countless beautiful ways by meeting people from all walks of life who’ve shown us worlds we knew nothing about. Happy trails and explorations to you and Alan!

    • It was a total blast, Tara, and Buddy was completely in his element. We were really grateful that the owners let Buddy run with the other dogs, and they all got along really well. It sure was quiet when they left, but what a precious moment it was!

  2. What a fun account of a unique adventure….and as Mary wrote, “the countless opportunities travel provides”. Love, Mom

    • It was a great afternoon that will stand out in our memories forever. No doubt, traveling is the best and most exciting way to expand your horizons. We’re getting ready for our next adventure right now!! xoxo

  3. Loved the adventure, the great photos, and the superb story-telling. It was like I was there! That’s the way it always is when I ride along on the roads less traveled with my friends Mark and Emily! Thanks for sharing.
    I haven’t experienced much of the cowboy west, but my son and his wife just relocated to Pinedale, WY. They asked me to come along and help them make the move from Kentucky. On April 13, I joined them for the LONG journey across the country to get to their new home in Wyoming. What a ride! We had our own adventure. Pinedale is spectacular. Their house sits north of town and the Wind River Range is in their front yard. The beauty is everywhere. They are less than 2 miles from Fremont Lake and the great expanse of the mountain range. I stayed a few days to help them settle in and got to experience countless mule deer and even a young moose came calling. Wow! I can clearly see why you guys spend so much time out enjoying this part of our great country. I actually thought of y’all while we were exploring one day. We were riding up to one of the lakes and came across an old Hitchhiker fifth wheel. I told my son that I wanted to stop and take a picture on our way back down the mountain to share with you. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity. Maybe I can get him to drive back by the area and grab a picture. It was parked in someone’s yard and it appeared that it was set up and ready to stay in.
    Oh well, Thanks for another great ride along. I have some great new sheep pictures in my mind the next time I need to do some nighttime counting.
    If you find yourself in Pinedale, stop by the local vet’s office and say hello to Pinedale’s new vet, Dr. Kelly Jones and her husband, Daniel. Im sure they would love to say hello and they can take care of Buddy, too!

    • Wow! What a great story, Jeff! We LOVE Pinedale! What a special town and gorgeous area. We had the best time there! When we discovered it in 2012 it was on the rise with natural gas drilling and was absolutely booming. We stayed next to the laundromat — and did lots of laundry at there with all those fabulous trophy heads on the walls looking down at us. So unusual! We also loved a restaurant/bar there on the main drag that had a balcony overlooking the street. We went there several times! The town park was very cool too, and of course that lake was stunning. We’ve been through once or twice again since then but want to go back and spend more time. This time we can meet Dr. Kelly Jones and Daniel and introduce them to Buddy! Thanks for the great memories this morning and for appreciating our sheep story. Here’s my blog post about Pinedale from 12 years ago:

      • I enjoyed reading about your earlier visit to Pinedale. Much of what you saw still exists today. Pinedale is a busy little town and boast that it is “All of the civilization that you need!”. I agree.I hope the kids can handle the extreme winters, but they have a beautiful place to call home.

        • The kids are really fortunate to have chosen a profession that can take them to a beautiful rural town that is “all of the civilization you need.” Lucky them — and lucky you for your many future visits!!

  4. Other than the weather, there might be some great benefits to being a shepherd for the summer, out there all alone in the quiet!

    • It is super quiet. They take the sheep far back into the National Forest, miles from paved roads. The Peruvian shepherds live in small travel trailers and use horses or ATVs to move around following the sheep. But it’s cold up there and the storms can be fearsome!! The sheep don’t mind, of course…

  5. I am familiar with the sheep between Heber and Holbrook but didn’t know they grazed this high up in the mountains. We could use some around the Nail Ranch (near Young, AZ) because the forest is so overgrown. This grass looks greener and more delicious though!
    Thanks for sharing this. The shepherds near Holbrook used to live in small wooden trailers of their own making (this was early 60’s) Now things are more comfortable….
    I bet Buddy was so excited. Most dogs’ lives now are so “foo foo” it must be fun for Buddy to get out and run and be useful.
    Mark’s photography is so wonderful. Isn’t it great that we can take unlimited images with digital cameras and not have to develop and print? At 81 years old I still take many images each day… so much fun. I was teaching my great nephew how to use his new mirrorless camera and told him to make a lot of mistakes while shooting and learn from them. This is the wonderfulness of digital cameras.
    We are still trying to decide if we want to make a road trip out of going to our grandson’s wedding this summer (in Toronto). That is a ways from Phoenix. We will see.
    Thanks for your wonderful articles and photography.
    Liz and Wally Walters

    • I didn’t know sheep graze between Heber and Holbrook, Liz. Next time we’re out that way we’ll have to look for them! The grass was so lush last summer because of the profuse winter snow and spring rains. The sheep were lucky and happy!!

      I wonder if those wooden trailers were similar to the ones the Basque sheep herders used in Wyoming. We saw lots of them during the Basque Festival in Buffalo, WY (I wrote about it here). They were pretty cozy, though rustic!

      We have found that photography is the perfect complement to traveling and we both enjoy it immensely. I’m eyeing up (and saving up for) Nikon’s Z8 camera. Hopefully next Christmas!! It will be a fun learning curve to go mirrorless after all these years of DSLRs.

      I hope you decide to do the road trip to Toronto. What a fabulous cross-continent trip that would be!!

      • Thanks for the link to the Basque wagons. A woman in Young rebuilt one and did such a great job! We used to see those on the road from Heber to Holbrook back in the day.
        One of my other memories is of seeing the colorful gypsy wagons by the side of the road when I was a child as we drove from Saint Louis to Colorado every summer.
        I am a serial camera buyer and went mirrorless quite awhile ago. We still use DSLRs in our child and dance photography however.
        Thanks for all your wonderful posts and photographs. It has been awhile since we did that ride from Phoenix to Gila Bend

        • How interesting that you used to see the Basque wagons between Heber and Holbrook! And the gypsy wagons — WOW!! That must have been quite a sight. We saw a gyspy wagon train in Northern Ireland back in 2003. We had no idea those even existed any more. I just love that there are so many ways to live a life! We’ve wanted to get the Z8 since it first came out but we’ve been holding off with other more immediate priorities. Can’t wait to make the switch! I’m so glad we met on that ride to Gila Bend — such a fantastic and scenic route!! Thank you very much for reading our various postings!!


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