For nearly 700 years, the shrimpers of Oostduinkerke, Belgium, have been training draft horses to help them pursue the local catch. Typically weighing more than 2,000 pounds, these horses are well suited to the task of carrying fishermen through the cold waters of the North Sea.
image/text credit: Great Big Story
Yet despite its historical importance, Oostduinkerke is the last place on Earth to use this traditional form of fishing. Currently, just 19 or so fishermen continue the practice.Men in bright yellow overalls and sou’-westers ride their plodding workhorses across the sands into the North Sea at low tide to trawl for shrimps in just the way that their forefathers have done for more than 700 years.
You may be wondering what horses have to do with shrimp fishing. The reason is exactly why our group was waiting on the beach. This unique tradition pairs man and beast against the sea (and the shrimp) and we were excited to see it happen.
Finally we could hear the clopping of heavy hooves on pavement and the huge Brabant and Hainaut stallions appeared, pulling carts filled with nets and gear. They paused at the boardwalk for the fishermen to don their bright yellow slickers and Sowesters and then paraded down to the sea’s edge, trailing our band of spectators.