Fortepan: Hungarian Shepherds

Fortepan image of Hungarian shepherds

Hungarian shepherds on the puszta looking after their Mangalica pigs.


This is perhaps the archetypal image of the Hungarian shepherd on the great Hungarian Plain known as the puszta. The puszta and its shepherds are a recurring theme in Hungarian mythology where the skills and attributes of the shepherds seem to encompass the true values of rural Hungarian life. They seem to echo the nomadic herdsmen of the original Hungarians who entered the Carpathian Basin some time in the late 10th century. The two shepherds seen here (or perhaps it would be more accurate to describe them as swine herdsmen) in this 1940 photo are looking after their Mangalista pigs and have that earthy ruggedness of the typical shepherd. Note both are carrying the traditional Hungarian bullwhip (karik├ís ostor in Hungarian) as well as wearing traditional hats. But their clothes look “well worn” – note the stitched piece on the jacket of the man on the left, suggesting that they are poor shepherds indeed. Nonetheless this photo could only have been taken in Hungary on the puszta and it is that strong sense of place that gives this photo its power.

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