Goat shearing gathers friends

CAPE MALEAS – June is shearing month for goats in some parts of the country and, as with all seasonal activities, it is accompanied by a number of customs that still survive in some form. Last Saturday was shearing day at the goat pens of Dimitris Delakovias on Cape Maleas in the southern Peloponnese. Friends from all over the area come to help – both those with flocks of their own who will be helped in turn, and others who come just to lend a hand and join in the fun, as the shearing is followed by a feast, although according to old-timers it pales in comparison with times past. The family has been in the business since the time of Dimitris’s great-great-grandfather, when goat hair, valued for its waterproof qualities, was sold to be woven into traditional rugs, blankets, capes and matting for olive presses. Now that these needs no longer exist, the Delakovias family is obliged to discard the hair. «We used to sell it to traders from Ioannina,» said Dimitris, «but there has been no demand for more than 10 years.» As the men made for the goat pens to begin shearing, the women start preparing the food, setting out long tables under the mulberry trees. Dimitris’s wife Matina, who every day makes myzithra goat cheese for market, prepares a stew of yearling goat (vetoula) with tomatoes and herbs. The goats are shorn with large shears like giant scissors. Dimitris sheared his 50 sheep the previous day with an electric shearer, which isn’t suitable for goat hair. «It shaves them too close,» he explained. One person holds the goat’s head by the horns to immobilize it while another does the shearing. After about six hours of hard work to finish off the some 650 animals, the men come out to wash up for lunch. Not all of them work with livestock. Some are shopkeepers, others seamen on leave, teachers or builders. But they are all locals and have been doing this for years. Dimitris’s father Tassos recalls the good old days when shearing was an occasion for a celebration. «After the shearing we’d get out the violins and flutes. In those days there were 10,000 goats and sheep in this area and now there are only about 2,000,» he said. «Now the world has moved on. Do you see any young people here? In my day, about 100 of us would gather at the pens up at Ay-Giorgi,» he said, indicating the mountain behind his house where the remains of a Byzantine church stand in a forested gorge. «I used to play the flute, my brother-in-law the lyre, some others violins. They knew how to enjoy themselves. Now their children have moved away. Things are quieter; then the place was alive, ringing with goat bells. Now there are just two small flocks there. When I go up there now I get depressed thinking about how things have changed.»

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.