(Hurriyet Newspaper, 26 August 2013)
Sheep get in the swim of things.
Yesterday in Asagiseyit village of Cal district, Denizli
province, the "Sheep Water Transit" race that has been
run for eight centuries for the herds of shepherds was
conducted. Some 29 shepherds and their herds participated
in the competition, in which the shepherds try to have their
animals swim across Great Menderes River in order for the
sheep to display their loyalty and love (!).
Nearly 5,000 spectators watched the race. Some of the sheep
jumped right into the water after their shepherd, while some
sheep turned around and headed back on the road they came
from. Denizli Governor Abdulkadir Demir viewed the
competition and stated that he would do everything possible to
to preserve the tradition. He noted that he has applied to have
the race added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, as well.
The story of the competition is this: the daughter of an Oguz
bey (chieftan) fell in love with a shepherd. The bey decreed that
in order for the girl to marry the shepherd "for three days you will
have your sheep drink salt water and then have them swim across
the Great Menderes River without letting them drink fresh water."
The shepherd succeeded but the bey didn't allow his daughter to
marry him. The girl died from grief and the shepherd lived alone
in the mountains.
Shepherds and sheep get along swimmingly.