Sheep and goats grazing in Prague

The city uses a natural and ecological approach to maintain its green areas

Even though Prague is a city of over 1 million people, its residents may encounter sheep, goats and even cattle wandering inside the city limits.

Two herds of sheep and goats have already started grazing in some of Prague’s wilder nature areas. A third herd will be added next week, and all three will rotate in pre-selected sites until October.

Each herd is made up of about 70 animals, with 80 to 90 percent being sheep, which predominantly graze grasslands. The rest are goats, which mainly nibble leaves.

The herds every year go to dozens of locations, especially in the valleys of Prokopské údolí and Šárecké údolí and in the Troja Basin. They are also located in other parts of Prague, such as in Radotínské údolí, in Třešňovka in Hrdlořezy or in the hill Vidoule in Jinonice. The number of animals and the length of grazing are adapted to each location and the current weather conditions.

“This method of maintenance in poorly accessible landscape areas is of course the most ecological, cheapest, but at the same time it is an inconspicuous educational element for Prague children who can see the life of farm animals in Prague,” Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlubuček (United Force for Prague) said in a City Hall press release.

In addition to sheep and goats, cattle are grazed in selected localities. Two herds of heifers mainly feed on meadows. One flock of about 15 will be grazed by Čihadla in Prague 9 from May to October, and the second herd of 12 will travel through the meadows of Čimické údolí, Šeberov and Milíčov. This year, the herd will begin in the Prague pasture in the valley of Šárecký potok.

Sheep and goat grazing has taken place mainly in specially protected areas in Prague since 2000, and cattle grazing since 2012. It is provided and financed by the Environmental Protection Department of the Prague City Hall. Since the animals in the herds are not city property, they return to their homes after the Prague season.

“Grazing for the capital is done by private farmers who also provide 24 hour surveillance of herds. The herders also check that the sheep only graze the lands that are actually designated for them. Sheep and goat grazing annually costs about Kč 950,000, in the case of cattle it is about Kč 450,000,” Hlubuček said.

Grazing in the territory of today's Prague is one of the historical ways of managing not only steppes but also meadows. The continuity was interrupted for a long time after World War II. This led degradation of the areas and loss of species diversity.

Animals remove biomass and help with maintenance — they are an alternative to mowing — especially for less accessible or waterlogged sites. The fundamental purpose and significant contribution of grazing in nature conservation is the disturbance of the grass turf and the creation of areas without vegetation, that is, grazed to bare ground.

This agitated grass turf allows for weaker and often rare species of plants to grow on a particular site. As with plants, many invertebrates are bound to grazed areas. There are many species of insects that nest in the ground but are unable to create chambers in the soil if the grass grows there. There is also a whole range of invertebrates attached to cattle droppings, which in turn are food for some birds.

Prague has had a positive reaction to sheep, goats and cattle from both the public and the city districts. Although it may temporarily limit the accessibility of some places, the permeability of existing pavements and paths is always maintained. A limitation is only for dog owners who are asked to have their animals on a leash around the pastures.

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