Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Celebrating a Blaine County tradition

Painting by Jane Wooster Scott

    The 16th annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival will take place throughout the Wood River Valley this weekend, celebrating the long and storied tradition of sheep ranching and all things wool in Blaine County.
    According to historical records gathered by members of the Trailing of the Sheep committee, the first sheep were brought to the valley in the 1880s by John Hailey, the founder of the town that bears his name. By the time the mining boom played out in the early 1900s, the sheep industry was one of the only viable economic activities supporting the valley.
    “Idaho had a breeding population of 14,000 sheep in the 1860s,” said Mary Austin Crofts, chief organizer of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival. “In 1905, 95,000 sheep were sheered in one week in the Wood River Valley alone, by hand. There were 2.65 million sheep in Idaho by 1918, six times the number of people.”
    At one time, herders could be seen herding 1 million to 2 million sheep through the Wood River Valley. The area had become one of the biggest wool-producing regions in the world, second only to Sydney, Australia.
    Here’s your guide to Blaine County’s entertaining tribute to sheep ranching in south-central Idaho.

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