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Sheep up for their annual polite invasion of city life

By Tim Gurrister - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Oct 22, 2021

Photo supplied, Loni Newby

Sheep strut their stuff during the 2020 Trailing of the Sheep in Brigham City.

BRIGHAM CITY — As many as 3,000 sheep are expected to barge through residential areas and even cross Main Street on Saturday, as they usually do this time of year.

Not quite Hemingway’s running of the bulls, but Saturday marks the “Trailing of the Sheep,” believed to be the 94th annual. The Eph Jensen Livestock Co. treks the flock from the foothills of Mantua to bisect Brigham City on the way to the fur-bearers’ winter ground in the fields near Bear River City.

Just as the fourth-generation livestock family has since the late 1920s, predating asphalt.

Barge being such a strong word, it’ll be more like a procession for the notoriously polite animals. Brigham City Assistant Police Chief Chris Howard has been involved in shepherding the Jensen sheep though the city in each of his 25 years with the department.

They cause no problems, never result in any damage claims, no fuss with strays, he said. “Droppings is about it,” he said of any sheep headaches from the annual promenade. “I’ve never seen a sheep get angry. Sometimes a couple of them get tired and fall behind … but there are enough people, horses and sheep dogs to keep them moving.”

Photo supplied, Cindy Mellies

Children look on as thousands of sheep walk past during the 2019 Trailing of the Sheep in Brigham City.

The herd of sheep tend to move as one giant mass, Howard said. “It’s like one big body. They follow the one in front of them.” Which doesn’t require much supervision from his officers.

His department usually deploys just two patrol cars to control intersections for the sheep, augmenting the typically single Box Elder County Sheriff’s deputy and solo Utah Highway Patrol trooper assigned escort duty, he said.

“There are a lot of people who come out to watch it,” Howard said. “I’m surprised at what a spectacle it becomes.”

“Ewe can’t miss out on this,” quipped Ruth Jensen (no relation), a former Brigham City Council member who’s become a regular attendee of the sheep run, finding young and old enjoy it. “Last year’s, I took my mom to one of the churches they were passing by and she loved it.”

She said this year “I’m taking my grandkids to watch the fuzzy, clickity-clackity parade. There is something soothing in watching and hearing them go by.”

Photo supplied, Stan Kano

In this undated photo, people watch as thousands of sheep walk past during the Trailing of the Sheep in Brigham City.

Brigham sheep run fans recall only Cedar City with anything similar in-state. That southern Utah town hosts a one-day legacy festival featuring some 1,000 sheep as part of a parade, this year set for Oct. 30, on the heels of its famous three-month Shakespearean festival, according to event websites. Ketchum, Idaho, held it’s 25th annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival on Oct. 6-10 featuring an estimated 1,500 sheep.

Saturday’s route has the sheep leaving Mantua around 8 a.m. to come out the mouth of Box Elder Canyon at the east end of 2nd South in Brigham, turning right (north) onto 6th East to trail all the way to 6th North. From there, it’s a left (west) to cross Main Street on the way to Watery Lane (1200 West), where the sheep pivot north for the stretch run to Bear River City environs.

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