Norwegian Language Blog

Sauesanking Posted by on Sep 14, 2012 in Traditions

In many ways, Vestlandet (Western Norway) is like Scotland or New Zealand (the South Island). You’ve got steep fjell (mountain/s – the singular and plural is the same), deep dal/er (valley/s, dale/s), fjord/er (fjord/s), lush, green vegetation in the warm months, and plenty of regn (rain)… And – you guessed it – lots of sau/er(sheep).

It must be quite nice being a Norwegian sau (almost rhymes with to have, except that the last sound is a ’w’ sound rather than a ’v’ sound). In the cold winter months you stay with your fellow sheep in fjøs/et (the barn). In the vår (spring) you’re let out in the green grass, where you eventually give birth to your lam (unless, of course, you’re a vær, ram). Then in late Spring or early Summer, when the snow has melted away from the highland pastures, the bonde (farmer) leads you and your woolly friends into his lorry, and takes you on a trip høyt til fjells (high up in the mountains)…

It’s even greater being human in Norway, early in September when the sauesanking (gathering of sheep) takes place. Even though each sauebonde (sheep farmer) knows the area where his or her sheep have been let loose, retrieving the animals again can be quite a puzzle! The sheep are convinced that the grass is greener on the other side of the peak, and during the summer months they may have strayed quite a bit away from the place of the original saueslipp (letting loose of sheep, literally ’sheep drop’). The poor farmer usually needs the help of several colleagues, family members and venner (friends).

The sauesanking typically lasts one weekend; if you’ve got uflaks (bad luck), you might need another… In 2010, when I joined a sheep-gathering expedition, all the participants went to the top of various highland slopes, in order to take the sheep by surprise from different sides. Man, did we run…

The problem is, sheep are not very intelligent. They’re unable to tread backwards, so if they stumble into a hull (hole) with their front legs, they’re stuck. They’re very easily scared, so if only one of the sheep hears a sound, in the next moment the whole flokk (flock) is running behind it like mad. As sauesanker, then, you must make sure that your location is higher than the sheep’s when you start approaching them… Otherwise, they’ll just start running upwards or into the wrong valley, no matter what you shout at them…

Sauesanking is a sweaty, exhausting, social and fun experience. If you come to (Western) Norway in early September, make sure to look out for a farmer! 🙂

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


  1. John Carringer:

    I suppose it is much the same with goats. Riding up to sommer seters in a truck/lorry would prevent exciting encounters with trolls under bridges though.