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Animal Husbandry and Shepherding Festivals

Some Examples of Animal Husbandry and Shepherding Festivals:


In Anatolia, ram mating ceremonies take place between 1st –20th October. One or two months beforehand, rams are removed from the herds. The first day of the ram increase ceremonies is celebrated as a festival almost in everywhere. Village residents gather in the village square with their drums and zurna (a reed instrument somewhat resembling an oboe). Shepherds allow the rams, which are dressed up and decorated with henna, to join the females. In some places, imams read out prayers at the same time.

Ram mating has an exclusive importance, with its own customs, beliefs and magical practices. It is believed that if a boy sit on a ram before it joins the ewes then the first lamb to be born will be male, and if a girl is placed on the ram then the first lamb will be female. If the shepherd encounters a man on his way to the ceremony, it is believed that the lambs that are born will be male, whereas if he encounters a woman from the village, the lambs will be female. It is also believed that if the ram mates with a black ewe, the winter will be warm, whereas if he chooses a white one, the winter will be harsh, although in some places the belief is the exact opposite. After the rams have mated with the ewes, the shepherd has to perform his ritual ablutions. If he enters the herd without doing so, it is believed that all the herd’s lambs will born disabled. If the shepherd rejoins the herd with an empty pot in his hand, it is believed that the sheep will have insufficient milk.


The festival known as saya, the face of the sheep or goat, is celebrated 100 days after the ram mating festival. The gestation period in sheep lasts 150 days. It is believed that the foetus comes alive and its hair begins to grow longer inside its mother on the 100th day. That is why the day is known as the face of the sheep. The Saya festival is celebrated with even more excitement than the ram mating festival. Three kinds of activity go on during the night:
1- Shepherds, children and young people wear unusual clothes and visit each others house in turn. They engage in repartee known as the “words of sayaci” and collect cash and food.

2- In some places, people play games in front of the houses. In one of these, an old person and a dark-skinned resident of the village pretend to fight, and the older resident feigns death. He is then restored to life by putting food on his mouth.

3- After visiting houses, a meal is prepared with the collected food, and the sayaci eat
this meal communally. They enjoy themselves until the morning, playing musical instruments and singing songs.


These are celebrated 50 days after the saya, when sheep begin to give birth, and are the last part of the shepherd festivals which last five months. In Anatolia, the birth of new lambs is celebrated with various traditional ceremonies, although it would not be correct to regard that occasion as a festival.

According to information from Malatya, Kars, Erzincan and their surroundings, shepherds visit flock owners’ houses and collect gifts from them when their sheep give birth. The shepherd is given tips when he takes the first lamb from the mountain to the village. In some places, when lambing time approaches, the shepherd takes the flock to green areas near the village. When the lambs are born, he sends a messenger to the village to inform the owners. These then send small gifts and appetizers called “dolcek” to the shepherd with the messanger. After all the lambs are born and the amount of “dolcek” has gone up, the shepherd comes to the village and shares his appetizers with the children there.

There are some beliefs and prohibitions related to lambing time. On that day, people do not give salt or fire to their neighbours. It is believed that animals will suffer harm if salt, fire, yeast or wool combs are given to neighbours.