The Inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in the Netherlands contains ICH of which the communities, groups or individuals involved have written a safeguarding plan. Those plans are reviewed by an independent review committee. Every three years an evaluation of the safeguarding takes place.


Working in a traditional way means that the shepherd has the care responsibility for a flock of sheep throughout the year, and for this reason is out on the fields almost every day. Especially in spring, summer and autumn, he travels across the heath and the low-yield pastures, hereby significantly contributing to the preservation of biodiversity. The word scheperen (‘to shepherd’) implies that the shepherd is goes with the flock and directs it, either or not based on a grazing plan. The shepherd uses his dogs and his shepherd’s crook. In the evening he returns to the sheepfold or the permanent night meadow. In winter the lambs are usually taken care of in the sheepfold. There are ten ‘shephered’ flocks in Drenthe, two in Overijssel, eleven in Gelderland, two in Utrecht and one flock with a traditional style shepherd in the provinces of North-Brabant, North-Holland, Friesland and Limburg. The traditional style shepherd who joined a guild, works with one of the regional breeds that have developed: Drenthe heath sheep, Large heath sheep, Schoonebeeker, Veluwe and Kempen heath sheep and Mergelland sheep. These old breeds have a genetic makeup by which they can keep alive on heath and low-yield pastures. Because of the large amount of required and varied knowledge, it takes years before a shepherd has finished his education.



The community first of all consists of the forty shepherds, of whom 26 joined the Guild. They work with site management organisations like the Nature Conservation Foundation, the Forestry Commission, provincial and private site managers and authorities. The shepherds sometimes have trainees or aspirant-shepherds in training and volunteers work with the flocks as well. The public that is recreating within the grazing area is an important part of the community.



Sheep have been kept for many ages already in the Netherlands. Because of the good quality of their manure, the sheep flocks were deployed to graze farmland and sandy areas. The manure was subsequently used to improve the farmland and agricultural areas. Most shepherds used to be bound to a village or community from which they daily guided their flocks to the heath. As of the sixteenth century, deep litter barns were to be in use, where the flocks could stay overnight and during the winter. A nice detail is the recommendation in a book from 1835, to go west with the flock in the morning and to east in the evening  –against the direction of the sun – thus allowing the sheep to keep their heads out of the warm sun. An exceptional thing was that in the nineteenth century large flocks moves from the Peel to the markets in Paris and even London. In the first half of the twentieth century the long tradition came virtually to an end, due to the number of clearings, reparcelling of the landscape and the use of other fertilisers. In the sixties and seventies of the last century a movement arose, from a touristic point of view, to safeguard the flocks. And some time later on ecology played a role, raising the interest for deploying the flocks for heath management. Grazing companies deploy a shepherd as a seasonal worker, without a connection to the grounds and with flocks of different compositions. The shepherd who work in the traditional way want to stop this trend.



Gilde van traditionele Schaapherders
Brinkgreverweg 17