They will be at the Europa Forum: Les Echassiers de Biscarosse

by MC et JP Tavin

Always the « image of Épinal » of Landes area: a shepherd standing on stilts, dressed in a sheepskin, next to his flock. If wading birds disappeared in the 19th century, folklore allows us not to forget the Landes pastoral culture, which is somewhat particular.-1921)

Before their transformation into a maritime pine forest (around 1850) the Landes de Gascogne consisted of large areas of grass and bushes. The soil is poor, sandy, not very suitable for crops, but is particularly suitable for raising sheep and goats.

It is in this environment that stilts show their full effectiveness. Perched 1 to 1.5 meters above the ground, the shepherd can more easily monitor his flock, generally made up of 100 to 150 heads. The wolf is never far away.

Man can also move quickly despite the difficulty of the ground, avoid the omnipresent gorse bites, protect his feet from wet ground and mud and identify swamps in order to avoid them.

From 1857, Emperor Napoleon III generalized the planting of pine forests in order to cleanse and drain the soil (see the article on the Landes Forest). The upheaval of the Landes nature marks the end of pastoralism. The profession of shepherd or peasant disappears in favor of that of harvester or forest harvester. The stilts are no longer justified and end up gathering dust in the lean-tos. Forestry has become overwhelming in just a few decades.

This is the end of utility stilts. However, they remain very present in Landes memory and at the folkloric level. You can enjoy a demonstration during our Europa Forum in Bordeaux. You can even try to use them, if you feel like it !