Working with sheep is one of the last handcrafted occupations with ancient roots and traditions. While the business of sheep ranching has evolved, the fundamentals of raising sheep have remained much the same for thousands of years. Sheep herding and ranching provide a hands-on, independent life, where workers shape their daily existence according to the cycle of seasons that defines their work.
This traveling exhibition, produced as one part of the Western Folklife Center’s Sheep Ranching in the American West project, presents a broad view of the work at hand as experienced in the Intermountain and Great Basin West.
Because much of the business of sheep ranching takes place in extremely remote places in the American West, the everyday public is not generally aware of this way of life and the current challenges it faces. This largely invisible occupation is quickly disappearing as the number of sheep operations in the American West diminishes. Since 1974 the sheep industry has declined over 39 percent. As a result, family run ranches seek new ways of sustaining their livelihood as they face challenges to their industry. In this atmosphere of necessary change, contemporary sheep raising continues to draw upon generations of wisdom, skills, and traditions. These cultural threads – emphasized in Trailing the Year - strengthen the industry and provide a legacy of work that paints a rich picture of an occupation at risk.
This exhibition was produced with the generous support of:
Nevada Arts Council
National Endowment for the Arts
Simmons Family Foundation
R. Harold Burton Foundation