Paris has come up with an interesting -- and pretty adorable -- solution to keep its grass fields in tip top condition.
The New York Times reports that this past Wednesday, a group of four black sheep has been set free in a field near the capital’s municipal archives to graze to their hearts' content.
The four natural lawnmowers are Ouessant sheep, named for a small island west of Brittany. The sheep are known for their diminutive size (adult rams stand only 1.6 feet to the shoulder), which, the Paris city council told France3 Bretagne, allows for "easier handling."
The moutons tondeuses or lawnmower sheep, as they are known in Paris, are part of a pilot program organized by mayor Bertrand Delanoë that will last until October 2013, according to France3 Bretagne. If the program proves successful, sheep could be used to replace lawnmowers at Parisian landmarks like the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes.
The so-called "eco-grazing" program could also help to demonstrate that being environmentally conscious need not be an expensive undertaking. According to the Times, the sheep cost Paris the equivalent of $335. However, it is unclear whether this sum includes the security guard and three-foot high electric fence employed to keep the sheep enclosed, or their room and board at the Paris Farm in between their 15-day stints at the archives.
Marcel Collet, technical manager of the Paris Farm, told Le Telegramme that the sheep grazing program was "a first in a city as densily populated as Paris."
And even in Paris, there are historical parallels. Historian Andrew Hussey writes in Paris: A Secret History that the Celtic inhabitants of Paris' precursor Lutetia kept sheep and cattle, which were fed with elm leaves from the forests "during the occasional emergencies when hay was in short supply." One would would assume that these early Parisians referred to the practice not as "eco-grazing" but, simply, as grazing.