Paris Trots Out Black Sheep as a Lawnmower Alternative

(Jerome Bon / Flickr and Smabs Sputzer / Flickr; Montage by AN)

(Jerome Bon / Flickr and Smabs Sputzer / Flickr; Montage by AN)

Since Wednesday, four black ewes have a new home, and new jobs as groundskeepers on a small patch of municipal land in Paris. Fenced in on a half-acre lawn in front of the city’s archives building in the 19th Arrondissement, the New York Times reported that the sheep are part of a new “eco-grazing” program which aims to cut out loud, gas-guzzling lawnmowers and toxic herbicides in favor of a more agrarian solution. If all goes well at the archives, city officials have plans to bring more mouton to pastures across Paris.

Their hilly home on the eastern edge of the city is a near perfect paddock for the animals, Marcel Collet, the farmer overseeing the sheep, assured the Times. The special two-foot-tall sheep, known as Ouessant, were brought from the Breton coast and selected for the hardiness and diminutive size. Contained by a three foot electric fence and monitored by a lone guard, the sheep face few threats aside from domestic dogs and the hazard of tipping over (if a sheep falls, someone needs to be there to flip it back over). “Otherwise, it risks smothering itself,”  archives director Angés Masson quipped to the Times. While she is happy with her new employees, they weren’t exactly what she was hoping for, telling the Times that, “Myself, I wanted a donkey.” Others also have their doubts about the sheep, as some worry that they may endanger the local biodiversity. Four distinct types of orchids have been found on the sheep’s new pasture, but scientists will stand by to monitor the interaction between the animals and plant life.

The sheep are part of a larger greening effort by Mayor Betrand Delanoë, who has brought bike- and car-sharing programs, bike and bus lanes, and pedestrian pathways to the city since being elected in 2001. At a mere $335 for the four, the sheep provide both a sustainable and affordable solution to Paris landscaping needs.

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