Sheep Herder Wagons
What once was basic shelter for sheepherders as they roamed the backcountry of the Mountain West while tending to their flocks is now a collector’s item that can sometimes fetch more than the average sheepherder earns in a year. Invented in the late 1800s to lessen the hardships of the lifestyle, sheep wagons (or carro campo, a term used by Basque sheepherders) were built with function in mind. They’re about 12 to 15 feet long, 7 to 8 feet wide, and typically feature a bed, pull out table, stove, kitchen area and storage cabinets. The curved roof is probably the most recognizable feature of the wagon, and while traditionally it was made of canvas, wagons with metal and wooden roofs can also be found. The curved shape was critical for the high mountain lifestyle where it can snow almost any month of the year. Also notable are the colors often used to paint the wagons. While they can be found in many colors and sizes, you’ll regularly see wagons with red wheels or trim, a green base, and white canvas roof. Red, green and white are the flag colors of the Basque region of Spain and France, whose immigrants to the United States have become synonymous with sheepherding in the West. A strong Basque culture thrives to this day in Idaho and Nevada. You can still find some herders around the West using one of these wagons, a testament to its functionality. I’ve spotted the wagons in the backcountry around the Wood River Valley of Central Idaho on multiple occasions. But more commonly you can now find them in personal collections and at a handful of resorts that offer them as a lodging option.