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Bjorn Moerman

Shrimp fishermen by horse, Oostduinkerke, Belgium

The sight of southwester capped fishermen riding on draught horses was commonplace along the shores of Belgium, the Netherlands, northeastern France and eastern England. Today you’ll only find a handful of them in one place: Oostduinkerke, one of the most charming beaches on our coast.

The shrimp fishing takes place at low tide, both in summer and in winter, for about two hours, i.e. one hour before and one hour after low water. The fishermen, clad in traditional southwester, bright yellow oilskins and rubber waders, climb into the saddle. A brief word of command, the lines between collar and net tighten and off they go. Breast deep in water, the horses advance at a steady pace, often side by side, dragging the nets up which scoop up both wanted and unwanted prey from the bottom. From time to time, the fishermen and his mount leave the water to empty the net and to put the contents into two wicker baskets fixed on each side of the horse. Usually the horse is a robust stallion of the Brabant or Hainaut breed, for this work requires exceptional strenght and powers of resistance.

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