During the months of February through May, and again in September through November, the “Paardenvissers” or fishermen on horseback from Oostduinkerke, Belgium have taken their Belgian (Brabant or Brabançon) horses, planks and nets into the breast-deep water of the North Sea trolling for shrimp since the 17th Century.
Sturdy and steady and willing to work is the name of the game when chosing a horse to perform the task while the tide is out.
The skill of this method of fishing is handed down from father to son through the generations, and there are only a few left continuing in this tradition. As the planks and net are dragged, the noise and vibration alert the grey shrimp, causing them to wiggle their way up through the sand under the shallow waters, and ultimately snagged in the netting. This method of fishing has become a town council touristy celebration of “man and horse power from days of yore” lasting approximately three hours. The bounty harvested is generally 8 kilograms (+17.5 lbs) of shrimp per demonstration. Women traditionally do not mount horses in search of shrimp but they do drag their nets through the waves by hand. . .just like they did when the men used to spend half a year catching fish off Iceland.Oostduinkerke has cherished the shrimp fishers since the 1950s, and has been buying up land to facilitate pastureland and to provide a location for the museum devoted to the fishermen on horseback.In exchange for keeping this tradition alive, the horse owners are provided free use of the pastureland owned by the town.