Ötz Valley Sheep Drive Recognised by UNESCO

The traditional sheep drive across the Alps from the South Tyrol into the Ötztal has been listed by UNESCO as part of humanity’s cultural heritage.

UNESCO this week included the so-called “transhumance” on the International List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Austria, Italy and Greece jointly submitted the application to include this special type of alpine pasture and pasture management. It is only of only five projects in Austria that have made it onto this list.

The Austrian cultural association Pro Vita Alpina campaigned to put the tradition of migrating sheep on the International List.

“It worked! We hope that this international award will also motivate the sheep farmers, shepherds and drivers to continue their ancient tradition,” said Florentine Prantl of Pro Vita Alpina.

At the Similaunhütte the sheep cross the border to the South Tyrol.
At the Similaunhütte the sheep cross the border to the South Tyrol
© Tirol Werbung

Transhumance takes place in many countries and parts of the world, but the sheep drive in the Ötztal is unusual as it is the only cross-border transhumance in the Alps and it also crosses glaciers. And this has been the case for at least 6,000 years, according to historical research.

In spring a total of 70 to 80 mostly young men and women from the Schalstal and Vinschgau are deployed for the drive. When the drive goes from the Timmelsjoch pass into the Passeier valley, it is mainly men from Obergurgl who carry out this activity.

They live annually for three months in old shepherd huts in the Ötz valley. Through transhumance, kinship, social and cultural relationships have developed between people on both sides of the pass over many generations.

“This is really a unique history in the Alpine arc, this common cross-border pasture farming. Of course we are delighted that this cultural heritage of our fathers has now made it onto the international UNESCO list,” says Ernst Schöpf, Mayor of Sölden.

More information: www.tirol.at