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Learning English - Words in the News
12 June, 2006 - Published 12:18 GMT
Ossetian sheep

In the latest leg of his journey across the north Caucasus, our correspondent, Steve Rosenberg, has reached North Ossetia, but he has found his path blocked - not by checkpoints or rebel fighters but by sheep.

Listen to the story

On a road winding into the Caucasus mountains, a group of shepherds is busy herding two-thousand sheep. The foothills echo to the animals bleating. There are so many sheep in fact it looks as if the road has been flooded by a sea of wool. Punctuating the white are the shepherds in their colourful shirts and hats. They're walking along with sticks twice their height with hooks on the end.

This time every year the local farm moves its ewes and rams to fresh pastureland up on the high ground. It's the kind of migration which has been taking place like this in Ossetia for hundreds of years. The group has been on the move for a day now and they've got three more days and more than a hundred kilometres to go before they reach their destination.

The farm manager, Shota, told me that his father and grandfather were Ossetian shepherds and Shota says they didn't have the problems that he has now.

SHEPHERD - SHOTA (in Russian)

Farm life used to be easier in Soviet times, Shota says. Back then the state gave you more support. Today our farm has to struggle along without any help.

As I watched Shota and his thousands of sheep go on their way, climbing steadily up the slopes, I felt I was gazing at a glorious watercolour centuries old. The shepherds of Ossetia have survived everyone from the Mongols to Joseph Stalin. Somehow they'll find a way to survive capitalism.

Steve Rosenberg, BBC, North Ossetia

Listen to the words

taking care of animals, looking after them, tending them

making weak, wavering cries, as sheep do

interrupting at intervals, showing from place to place

female sheep

uncastrated male sheep

land covered with grass suitable for grazing animals, such as sheep

a place to which a person or thing is going

going up

pieces of rising ground (like hills)

a picture made with paint diluted with water, not oil

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