Animal Husbandry – A Shepherd’s Life
The climate, vegetation and terrain of the Greek land fostered livestock farming, which mainly concerns sheep and goats. Animal husbandry was one of the main occupations of the inhabitants of the traditional society of Messinia. Animal husbandry as a family resource was especially common, since it provided wool, milk and dairy products to the Greek households.
The name of the farmer (shepherd) was ‘tsopanis’ (herder) and, in some cases, he was called ‘sheepherder’ or ‘goatherd’, depending on his herd.The shepherd wore a ‘valtosouka’ i.e. a woolen (‘kozini’) cloak and had a crook (‘glitsa’) and a flute. In winter, shepherds descended to warmer places, in the lowlands, renting large grounds (estates), which they repaid with cheese (‘touloumotiri’) and wool, while in spring they ascended to the mountain slopes, where they built temporary huts and pens. An important event for the shepherds was the shearing (‘koura’) of the sheep, at the beginning of summer, which brought profit by selling the wool.The sheep, depending on the color of their fleece, can be: white, black (laya) and black and white (‘kapsala’). Goats can be white, black-haired (‘korba’) and red-haired (‘rousses’). Besides sheep and goats, they also breeded other species, such as cattle, pigs, poultry (chicken/hens-‘orntihes’) and turkeys (‘indians’).
Livestock buildings housed the flock and livestock tasks. Such buildings were the pen, a fenced rectangular space for goats, built with plain rubble, the sheepfold (‘strougka’), an enclosed space where they kept the flock and milked the goats and sheep, the coop, the place where hens, chicken and turkeys perched, the pigsty/pigpen (‘koumasi’), a sheltered place for pigs, and ‘tirokomeio’, the building were dairy products were made. In some cases there were also ancillary spaces that stored the equipment and milk products.