The Last Shepherd Of Thakhorling Village In Tsirang, Bhutan


The Tamang family is the last family to rear sheep in the Thakhorling chiwog of Padtshaling Gewog under the Tsirang Dzongkhag (District).

Declining sheep population forces Bhutanese herders to import wool from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. (Source: Northeast Now)


By Namgay Wangchuk BBS

Dhan Maya Tamang, 78, serves breakfast to her husband Phurba Tamang, 74 and waits restlessly for him to finish eating. A flock of over twenty sheep were bleating in the lush cardamom field, calling for their old shepherd to untie them.

The Tamang family is the last family to rear sheep in the Thakhorling chiwog of Padtshaling Gewog under the Tsirang Dzongkhag (District).

Sheep rearing is a ‘disappearing’ trade in Tsirang

The place was once flooded with sheep which are reared for meat, wool, milk and manure. Today, the future of sheep rearing in Thakhorling village depends solely on the old couple who treats their sheep like their children.



Source: Bhutan Map


“As long as we are alive and are capable of looking after this flock, we will continue to herd sheep. But after we are gone it’s not in our hands, we don’t know if our children will continue the trend,” Phurba Tamang said

According to the couple, rearing sheep is not easy and entails hard work. Moreover, substitutes for woollen products which are available in the market have also discouraged people’s perspective towards rearing sheep.


Photo: BBS

"Earlier in our young age we used to be sheepherders, and as I got married and came to my in-laws they also reared sheep. But gradually everyone stopped rearing it. We even planned to sell a few sheep so that our neighbours can also rear some but no one is keen. People say they have no one to herd the sheep. Rearing sheep is a daunting task; it won’t work like feeding fodder to tied up cattle,” Dhan Maya Tamang said.

Lack of wool weavers make sheep rearing an unattractive trade

To further compound the problem, people have stopped weaving wool products also. It is very difficult to find someone who can weave wool.

“Even if we ask weavers to divide the product on a fifty-fifty basis, they are adamant. It is also not easy to weave wool. Moreover we get plenty of woollen products easily in town so they say why take the trouble?” Phurba Tamang explained.

The office claims that people tend to focus on building infrastructure such as roads and irrigation but ignore such traditional modes of farming such as sheep rearing, which is at risk of vanishing.

Tsirang’s officials hope that there will be more interest in preserving the local breed of sheep.

Meanwhile, the livestock extension office in the gewog, which is equally worried about the decline in sheep rearing, has plans to provide quality rams in the next financial year.


This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.


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