What’s old is new again: Shepherd wagons

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By Diane McGovern

Shepherd wagons were used in France and the United Kingdom from the 1400s to the 1900s by shepherds tending their sheep. Sometimes called a sheep camp, sheep wagon, camp wagon or range camp, they were usually pulled by horses and contained a bunk bed, a wood stove for cooking and heating, and a small seating area.

Shepherd wagons were also used in the U.S. during the late 1800s and early 1900s as people headed West searching for gold and new places to settle, following the advice made popular by Horace Greeley: “Go West, young man.”

Nowadays, you can see an old shepherd wagon near the Harlowton rest area between Billings and Great Falls, Montana, next to Ray’s Sports & Western Wear (don’t get run over by the huge herds of sheep strolling by). It was built in the 1940s and is owned by Dave Miller, who operates The Barnsion event center in Harlowton, while also running a sheep ranch.


Frontier model by Western Range Camps

The tiny house movement has caused renewed interest in these functional and funky shepherd wagons. Western Range Camps in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, builds the modern version of sheep wagons – some for actual sheep herders and some to be used as recreational vehicles.

Wilson Camp wagon

Wilson Camp wagons have been built by the Wilson family in Heber City, Utah, since 1976. They are designed and built based on the need for a camp chassis that is not only capable of traveling at highway speeds but also able to maneuver in the rugged back trails of the Rocky Mountains.

The updated shepherd wagons, 12-25 feet long, are designed after their predecessors, with the arched roof, wood stove, bed in the back and door in the front. Price ranges from $30,000 to $50,000, depending on size and options.


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Bfisher003
Bfisher003

I remember seeing them out in Colorado a few years ago.

Rob
Rob

Old style shepherd wagons are STILL used by sheepherders in my area of southwest Idaho. They are not as common as they were in the 60s & 70s when I was growing up but I still see them now & then following a herd of sheep grazing in the hills around where I live. Most often pulled by an old small Ford or similar tractor instead of horses though.