March 18, 2018

MORE SPORT THAN FARMING:

The Dying Art of Fishing for Shrimp on Horseback: In Oostduinkerke, Belgium, horses plow the ocean instead of the fields. (NATASHA FROST MARCH 16, 2018, Atlas Obscura)

The fishermen, known in Flemish as paardenvissers, ride Brabant horses, a regional breed that is large and sturdy (generally around 5'7", or 16 hands, at the withers), with dense feathering on their lower legs, flaring out over their hooves like the bell of a trumpet. The Vandendriessches have six. A few times a week, they harness a chosen horse to a cart via a special wooden saddle and bring it down to the shore. The cart is piled high with equipment--nets, clothes, baskets, and sieves--and the fisherman must perch on its side.

On the grey-blue beach, beset with flocks of seagulls, the horse waits while the fisherman pulls yellow waterproofs over his clothes--pants, secured around the ankles with twine, and a hooded oilskin. The pair walk into the waves, rider on horseback, until the horse is breast-deep in the surf, jerking its head to avoid the seawater that licks at its nostrils.

Behind them, a 30-foot funnel-shaped net stretches back into the waves. As the horse walks, a chain dragged over the sand creates vibrations--causing the shrimp to jump into the net as gaily as if they'd been called for supper. Slowly, they go to and fro, walking the length of the flat coastline, as the net fills with shrimp. Once every half hour, they return to the beach: The horse has a few moments to rest as the fisherman empties the net, using wooden sieves to sift through the catch.

Posted by at March 18, 2018 4:25 AM

  

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