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Pastore Maremmano

I was interested to note in the BBC news today that special breeds of dog are being used to protect livestock against the growing numbers of wolves in the mountains of Portugal.

Our neighbour’s puppy Camilla belongs to a breed of dog, the Pastore Maremmano or Maremma Sheepdog, which has the same traditional role of guarding flocks.

Strangely enough, I’ve never met Camilla face to face – only seen her from a distance. Kepler obviously thinks the world to her and so does her owner, who speaks proudly of her obedience and sociable nature.

Possibly my first encounter – or non-encounter – with Maremmani was when we spent the night in the car high up in the Sibilline Mountains. There was a flock of sheep nearby, guarded by a few of these dogs, and we were advised not to answer the call of nature in the night in case they perceived us as a threat.

The shepherd – or more accurately goatherd – who lives at the foot of our road has a bedraggled-looking Maremmano chained up outside his house in all winds and weathers.  A couple of years ago a pair of cute, soft white puppies – likewise Maremmani – could be seen tumbling about in the road nearby. He kept one of them – now usually chained to a feeding trough – and abandoned the other to go wild. It managed to elude the dog catchers for a while; I don’t know what became of it.

Our shepherd doesn’t use Maremmani to guard his goats when he takes them out and about to pasture: he obviously finds Border Collies more helpful. This is the photo I took of him from the car when we stopped to let him pass.

The shepherd with his goats and dogs

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