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A Shepherd with heart and soul

Overview

Peter Hatala has nearly 50 years of experience in shepherding and loves sheep as much as dogs. He uses traditional methods and trains his Slovakian Čuvač dogs to protect the herd. This story is the extract of an interview that was first published in CDP News 19.


Story by

Peter Hatala

Contact

Occupation

Livestock raising

Location

Brusno

Province

Banskobystrický, Slovakia


Chapter 1

the beginning

Sometimes I have the impression that I was born a shepherd! From the age of eight I started to herd sheep during my free time. I spent my holidays and weekends with the sheep outside, alone in some abandoned pastures. Of course, I got some money for my work but, beside this, I was simply happy with this job. After I finished school aged 18, I fully dedicated my life to this work.

1/5

Chapter 2

the companions

“I love the sheep for how they are and that I make a living from them. And I love the dogs as my companions and that they protect me and my animals.”

During my childhood I trained and bred various dogs at the sheep camp. Sometimes I took them home, but my parents didn’t like it. During my military service, I worked with German shepherd dogs and can now compare various breeds of dogs and their working abilities. Since 1984 I’ve had my own herding and livestock guarding dogs and also breed them.

Two of them possibly even saved my life once: One night I was walking back from the pasture to the sheep-camp (salaš in Slovak) after dark. I had to pass a very dense forest and suddenly there was a bear behind me. It was roaring at me and I could smell its body. I started to run, but somehow slipped, fell and hit my mouth on my shepherd stick. I broke some teeth and started to bleed. It was painful and I felt helpless. Suddenly, I spotted two white creatures in the pitch darkness: my livestock guarding dogs (Slovak Čuvač). They chased the bear away. Till today, I am extremely thankful to these two dogs.

Chapter 3

approach

“One should never forget: attacks by wolves are more serious. I always say that bears are wise, but wolves are professors.”

On average, I herd around 300 – 400 sheep, exceptionally up to 600 sheep. You really need very good, brave dogs to protect your livestock. That’s why I always have between two and seven dogs with me. The number of dogs depends on various factors including the place where I go with the sheep, the weather conditions, the situation with wolves, the numbers of tourists and the dogs themselves. I’ve seen them actively chasing away attacking wolves and bears. Sometimes I also saw that very strong dogs just stood at the forest edge and barked without joining an active chase, which was enough, too. Since 2006, I have nearly no losses due to predators except one ewe and one lamb. 

Livestock guarding dog

Livestock guarding dogs defend the herd against attacks by wolves. They feel like part of the herd and settle down with the pet owner.  The dogs live permanently outside and defend "their" herd against all intruders from the outside. Well-trained livestock protection dogs are no danger to walkers and hikers, but these should lead their dogs on a leash. To make this work, well trained herd protection dogs are required, which are adapted to the type of grazing by the livestock. This requires regular checks made by experienced people so that the dogs do not start to behave incorrectly.

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Report your experience with this tool

Beatrice Jouenne

24.08.2018

www.polegrandspredateurs.org NGO working on nature protection/conservation. Thanks to livestock guarding dog, this project aims to support sheep breeders whose herds are victims of lynx attacks. An important step of the project is to learn breeders the educational protocol of dogs. During this project, we developed another protection tool: the multi-herd guarding dog. We educated a dog in order to place him one season after another with different farmers whose herds was attacked. This dog was effective immediately and stopped lynx damage. After this test, the Pôle Grands Prédateurs proposed to breeders to take one or two puppies to replace him. In this context, breeders had the experience of a livestock guarding dog, knew the benefits, and could better apprehend the arrival of a new dog on their farms. Since 2015, the Pôle Grands Prédateurs is no longer a breeding pole for livestock guarding dogs. The association continues its action of support to the sheep breeders by being a platform of discussions and putting in relation breeders who look for dogs and breeders who have puppies to place. We also take in charge directly pups placement. Besides, we organized a lot of communication actions around the theme of “livestock guarding dog as a tool of prevention against lynx predation”. We realized a documentary about this subject in the Jura Massif in 2015/2016. Since 2017, we organized projections and debates with this film for a large audience (general public, naturalists, elected officials, schoolchildren, breeders ...). This was abinding measure implemented by Pôle Grands Prédateurs in the frame of Assistance to sheep breeders – livestock guarding dog and personalized support in Sheep breeders from the French Jura Mountains in the French Jura Mountains. It specifically involved Farmers, Livestock risers. It operated for 8 years (from 2007 to 2015) and received partial financial support from Own funds, Other sources, Public funds (State).Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Jean-Marc Landry.

Beatrice Jouenne

24.08.2018

Study of the behavioral ecology of the wolf in agro-pastoral system (night observation with thermal camera, GPS tracking of sheeps and livestock guarding dogs, investigation of the know-how of sheep breeders and shepherds). After a 5-year phase I, the phase II will begin in 2018. Studies of the wolf – livestock guarding dog interactions are a source of consistent data that brings a new perspective on the relationships and interactions that occur in herds, their immediate vicinity and their extended periphery. The Canovis project is a possible response to major challenges that aim to significantly improve the coexistence between extensive livestock (sheep, goats, cattle) and wolves. Thanks to scientific research, the project designs and develops concrete and adapted solutions. The discoveries we made during the first 5 years of the project are major. Our results are in the process of completely revolutionizing the knowledge of the eco-ethology of the wolf in pastoral system. Unfortunately, our financial resources are limited and this is our major difficulty to continue the project. This was a non-binding measure implemented by IPRA Sàrl until 2017. Jean-Marc Landry Foundation since 2018. in the frame of CANOVIS project (phase I) in the whole country in the Mercantour National Park, Canjuers military camp. It specifically involved Journalists, Livestock risers, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated for 4 years (from 2013 to 2017) and received partial financial support from Own funds, Private donors, Other sources.Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Gilles MOYNE, director.

Chapter 4

outlook

I never thought about changing my profession, but the future of shepherding in my region is simply bad. It is difficult and responsible work and also very time-consuming. Bears and wolves are not directly responsible for many sheep farms closing. This is rather due to people. During recent years, there are more and more people in the forest, mainly for recreational purposes like mountain biking, hiking, mushrooming etc. Such people are not willing to take care about either sheep or dogs. They walk through my flock and start to beat the livestock guarding dogs if they bark at them. Mountain bikers and motorcyclists even kill your sheep if they get in their way. Arrogant people are much more destructive than predators.

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