Senegalese peacekeepers with the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) train at their team site in Um Baro, Sudan, beside their pet sheep, bought years earlier by a former Senegalese contingent. Having a sheep at the base is an ancient military tradition in Senegal that is said to guarantee protection against any difficulties or threats. Photo ID 494841. 14/11/2011. Um Baro, Sudan
uch enthusiasm is not unusual in Senegal. People there adore sheep. Not only are they delicious, they can also be status symbols. Every year during Tabaski, a religious festival, hundreds of thousands of them are sacrificed (and then gobbled up). Poorer families often take out crippling loans to buy one so they don’t lose social standing. The latest craze is for a particularly fancy breed. Ladoum sheep are huge and majestic—rams can weigh as much as three grown men. Startlingly, they are also without wool (which is not a problem in west Africa as it is too hot to wear jumpers). Some Ladoum look more like small horses than sheep.
A ram the size of a small pony tosses its head inside a sumptuous pen illuminated by flashing disco lights, before lunging at some ewes half its size. The skittish animal lives on a rooftop in Senegal’s capital Dakar, alongside a dozen ewes, in an enclosure featuring ceiling fans, faux chandeliers and multicoloured lighting. The plush surroundings underscore the deep affection owner Abdou Fatah Diop has for the breed of sheep known as Ladoum, which are native to the West African country.