Csikós

Story

 

The Hortobágy region of Eastern Hungary has been a cradle of traditional agricultural and pastoral professions for 11 centuries, many of which have been tightly connected to the live stock. Shepherds herding horses, sheep, cattle, pigs and goose were the characteristic, nomadic or half-nomadic pastoral professions on the Great Plains or the “Puszta” (the Hungarian steppe). As the name suggests (“puszta” means barren or wasteland in Hungarian), life here has never been easy. The daily routine of the shepherds started around early dawn around sunrise and normally ended after sunset, with no weekends. While this has changed a bit, as present day shepherds have day-offs (regulated by labour laws), weekends are non-existent and they work around long hours in daily shifts. Some shepherds are half-nomadic, spending only the daytime outdoors, while others (for example cattle herders) are often fully nomadic, spending even weeks outdoors in the field with the live stock.

 

Back in the days, the “csikós” (wranglers, herders of the horses) were on the top of the “shepherd hierarchy” and had the most respect. However, shepherds used to live in a brotherly way, depending on and supporting each other. Since the wranglers didn’t have meat, they sometimes helped out other shepherds with horseback riding and in return they received meat. Shepherds used to cook outdoors in the plains where they spent their whole day and the most popular meals were the ones they could cook in a “bogracs”, which is a steel cauldron-like kettle on fire. Different stews made of grey cattle, sheep and pork are still the characteristic specialties of the region.

 

Photo: Zsolt Répásy

 

The “csikós” wear blue shirts and pants in the Hortobágy region (elsewhere white is the traditional colour of shepherd outfits), a black vest, boots and a characteristic hat with a wide rim. A feather is an important part of the hat, signifying rank and respect. Most often people put a crane feather on their hats as cranes have been one of the most widespread birds of the region. (During their migration, a flock of 70-120 thousand cranes cross the Hortobagy National Park’s area.) The other most widespread choice is the feather of bustards.

 

Photo: Pam Hesselmans

 

Wranglers always carry a handmade leather whip (with wooden, hand carved grip) which is used to guide the animals (never for hitting them), a small knife for all-around purposes (eating, cutting ropes etc) and an “old-school”, mechanic pocket watch on a chain.

 

Photo: Jeroen Cox

 

Although the “csikós” profession has been in the families from generation to generation, often times there are still enthusiastic “applicants” who only see the “shiny” side of this lifestyle, their proud posture, strength and death-defying riding skills with unattached saddles. The reason for using unattached saddles, which is quite rare, is that they can mount any horse faster in case they need to switch horses.

 

Photo: Kieke van Maarschalkerwaart

 

Very few actually remain and become one of them, as soon as they experience the daily hardship. It is a very tough work and life, not only due to the long hours and hard physical labour, but they spend most of their days alone out in the puszta, and many applicants cannot endure that solitude for long.

 

Photo: Kieke van Maarschalkerwaart

 

These days it is unsure how long this traditional profession will survive as there are very few young wranglers who choose this way of life so unfortunately the chances are there that it will disappear along with other traditional pastoral professions.

 

Photo: Jeroen Cox

Is there a new generation of Csikós, does it pass onto next generation, will it survive?

What do you use the whip for?

Do you cook yourself on the puszta, if yes what’s your favorite meal, how do you create it?

How is your connection with other Csikós?

How is their relationship with other herdsmen?

Want to know more about the Csikós ....?

Csikós

Story

 

The Hortobágy region of Eastern Hungary has been a cradle of traditional agricultural and pastoral professions for 11 centuries, many of which have been tightly connected to the live stock. Shepherds herding horses, sheep, cattle, pigs and goose were the characteristic, nomadic or half-nomadic pastoral professions on the Great Plains or the “Puszta” (the Hungarian steppe). As the name suggests (“puszta” means barren or wasteland in Hungarian), life here has never been easy. The daily routine of the shepherds started around early dawn around sunrise and normally ended after sunset, with no weekends. While this has changed a bit, as present day shepherds have day-offs (regulated by labour laws), weekends are non-existent and they work around long hours in daily shifts. Some shepherds are half-nomadic, spending only the daytime outdoors, while others (for example cattle herders) are often fully nomadic, spending even weeks outdoors in the field with the live stock.

 

Back in the days, the “csikós” (wranglers, herders of the horses) were on the top of the “shepherd hierarchy” and had the most respect. However, shepherds used to live in a brotherly way, depending on and supporting each other. Since the wranglers didn’t have meat, they sometimes helped out other shepherds with horseback riding and in return they received meat. Shepherds used to cook outdoors in the plains where they spent their whole day and the most popular meals were the ones they could cook in a “bogracs”, which is a steel cauldron-like kettle on fire. Different stews made of grey cattle, sheep and pork are still the characteristic specialties of the region.

 

Photo: Zsolt Répásy

 

The “csikós” wear blue shirts and pants in the Hortobágy region (elsewhere white is the traditional colour of shepherd outfits), a black vest, boots and a characteristic hat with a wide rim. A feather is an important part of the hat, signifying rank and respect. Most often people put a crane feather on their hats as cranes have been one of the most widespread birds of the region. (During their migration, a flock of 70-120 thousand cranes cross the Hortobagy National Park’s area.) The other most widespread choice is the feather of bustards.

 

Photo: Pam Hesselmans

 

Wranglers always carry a handmade leather whip (with wooden, hand carved grip) which is used to guide the animals (never for hitting them), a small knife for all-around purposes (eating, cutting ropes etc) and an “old-school”, mechanic pocket watch on a chain.

 

Photo: Jeroen Cox

 

Although the “csikós” profession has been in the families from generation to generation, often times there are still enthusiastic “applicants” who only see the “shiny” side of this lifestyle, their proud posture, strength and death-defying riding skills with unattached saddles. The reason for using unattached saddles, which is quite rare, is that they can mount any horse faster in case they need to switch horses.

 

Photo: Kieke van Maarschalkerwaart

 

Very few actually remain and become one of them, as soon as they experience the daily hardship. It is a very tough work and life, not only due to the long hours and hard physical labour, but they spend most of their days alone out in the puszta, and many applicants cannot endure that solitude for long.

 

Photo: Kieke van Maarschalkerwaart

 

These days it is unsure how long this traditional profession will survive as there are very few young wranglers who choose this way of life so unfortunately the chances are there that it will disappear along with other traditional pastoral professions.

 

Photo: Jeroen Cox

Is there a new generation of Csikós, does it pass onto next generation, will it survive?

What do you use the whip for?

Do you cook yourself on the puszta, if yes what’s your favorite meal, how do you create it?

How is your connection with other Csikós?

How is their relationship with other herdsmen?

Want to know more about the Csikós ....?

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stay in the know

 

Subscribe to the mailing list to keep up with updates from the Jimmy Nelson Foundation. And don’t worry... we don’t like spam either