Last week, four shaggy black sheep were put to work grazing on the grass in front of Paris‘ municipal archives building. The sheep are being used as a pastoral alternative to gas-guzzling and noisy conventional lawn mowers, and if the trial goes according to plan, they could be employed in other parts of the city. Mayor Bertrand Delanoë’s office has described the project as “eco-grazing,” but the sheep are doing much more than that; they’re also drawing crowds of curious onlookers to the archives.

Black Sheep, sheep grazing, ewes, black sheep grazing, sheepPhoto via Shutterstock

Similar eco-grazing programs have been installed in smaller towns across France in recent years, but this is a first for Paris. The archives building is located in Paris’ 19th Arrondissement, and it features a hilly, half-acre lawn that is surrounded by a three-foot electric fence. The sheep used for the high-profile experiment are a rare breed of scruffy-looking sheep called Ouessant that were chosen for their small stature. The sheep are part of a broader effort by Mayor Bertrand Delanoë to improve Paris’ environmental record; since he took office in 2001, Delanoë has also expanded the city’s network of bike lanes and launched bike- and car-sharing programs.

Although the sheep are fairly self-reliant, they are protected by a single security guard, who ensures that they aren’t attacked by predators. According to the New York Times, the archivists have also been trained to care for the sheep. For example, if a ewe were to fall and flip on its back, a person would have to quickly flip it back over to prevent it from smothering itself. If everything goes according to plan, the eco-grazing program could be expanded to other Paris properties.

via The New York Times and A/N

Lead photo by Smabs Sputzer