Sheep Wagons

While living in an area populated by people from the Basque region, some residents around the Reno/Lake Tahoe area will sometimes catch a glimpse of a sheepherder, his sheep and his home in the high desert: a small trailer or sheep wagon.

My post on the gypsy caravans was popular, so I thought I would do a post on the classic (and contemporary) sheep wagon.

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Sheep wagons are usually about 7 to 8 feet wide and about 12 to 16 feet long. Inside the wagon is usually room for one bed or bunks, a small stove, sink and cooking area, storage for clothes and an eating area. Most sheep wagons do not have bathrooms or showers.

Caption

Old Western Wagons

Sheep wagons are more of an American West style and the gypsy caravan is more of a European style. The sheep wagon has a curved roof supported by hoops and looks more like a covered wagon. The roof can be made from heavy duty cloth or wood. I have even seen a few with tin or corregated metal roofs.

Several companies in the U.S. convert old wagons or build new wagons for vacation homes and retreats or backyard offices and country cabins. There are also a few books with great photos and information on sheep wagons including Portable Houses by Irene Rawlings and Mary Abel and Retreats by G. Lawson Drinkard III.

Old Western Wagons

Old Western Wagons

Old Western Wagons

Old Western Wagons

Old Western Wagons

Old Western Wagons

Old Point Reyes Campground

Old Point Reyes Campground Shepherd's Wagon

Home on the Range Sheep Wagon

Anvil Wagonworks

Old Western Wagons

Visit a Montana 1880’s Ranch

Stay in a Shepherd’s Wagon in Point Reyes

Hanson Wheel & Wagon Shop

Story from Mother Earth News on living in a sheep wagon

Idaho Sheep Camp

Moore Ranch

Roadhouse Wagons

Woolywagons

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Stephen Oliver - April 27, 2009 Reply

Have you come across the British version, Shepherd’s huts? There was an article in The Telegraph which gives an inro to them:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/4386003/Shepherds-huts-are-the-new-country-accessory.html

Christina Nellemann - April 27, 2009 Reply

Thanks Stephen for the great link! Since I focused on gypsy caravans in Europe the last time, I thought I would give the American version their due. But in the future I would love to do more research on these cute little Shepherd’s Huts!

Sheep Wagons and Shepard Huts - April 29, 2009 Reply

[…] list of sheep wagon builders if you’d like to learn more about buying or building one. Visit Tiny House Blog for the complete story. You might also be interested in reading more about Shepard Huts in the […]

Plankbridge Shepherd's Hut - June 8, 2009 Reply

[…] For more information on shepherd’s huts or sheep wagons, read this Tiny House Blog post […]

Dee Pauley - October 4, 2009 Reply

Hi
I am looking for a set of plans to build a full sized sheep wagon or a full sized covered wagaon…

I loved your tiny houses

Thank you
Dee Pauley

Alvin - June 8, 2010 Reply

attention sheep wagon fans!

please take a look at our project to redesign the sheep wagon:

http://www.m12studio.org/campito.html

a portion of our research will be on display at the biennial of the americas in denver this july(2010).

http://www.biennialoftheamericas.org/citywide-exhibitions

Kathy Kohl - October 18, 2010 Reply

I was lucky enough to visit a working sheep herders wagon when I was about 10 years old (1976). I didn’t consider myself lucky at the time because the smell was stuck in my nose for days afterwards. My family had a Jewelry store in West Yellowstone Mt for 5 summers. At the time we had met a real sheep hearder through a friend who was a hermit. She told him we would be out in the summer. He lived off the land and saved the claws from diffrent animals and we traded with him. Mom and I went out with a few bottles of some wiskey, beans and some cash. In return we got a MJB can. I asked if I could look inside and she said ok before you get back in the truck. I regreted it, inside was bear claws and mt lion claws with maggots all over them. Rotting flesh from the animal that was 2 or 3 months old. Now when I see these Sheep Wagons I always think I hope they got the smell out. Love your site, I have been a fan for a few years now. Thanks.

Seth - January 19, 2011 Reply

Thanks for this. I lived in one of these for a summer when I was about 5 years old with my dad while he built our home in south-western Wyoming back in the early 80’s. Good memories. Time to track one of these down for my own kids – or build one…

Mike - February 8, 2011 Reply

Hello All’
I really enjoyed your blog about sheep wagons, I am the general manager of a company that still builds sheep wagons, sheep camps, gypsy wagons, range camps. For over a hundred years they =have been know by many names, but no matter what they are call they have served people well for a lot of years. You would be sup-prized how many camps there are out there that are 60 years old that are still being used to day. Here are some interesting things about sheep camp generally the door is on the front and is always a dutch door (I have seen a few camps that have a side door) the door was placed here so that a they could drive their team of horses etc… When you come in the door if the wood-burning stove is on your right hand side it is considered a sheep camp if it is on the left it would be a gypsy camp. If the door swings to the right again it is a sheep camp if to the left it is considered a cow camp. There is a lot of tradition and heritage in these camps. In fact I had an old sheep man approach me one day as he was looking at one of are Timberline Range Camps and he told me that we were building our doors wrong, I fell for it and asked what was wrong he proceeded to explain that on all of the older camps the lower portion of the dutch door is always smaller than the top half and that most people believed that that was so they could drive the team of horses. He then told me that this was not the reason, that the door was shorter so that the sheepherder could take a pee over it. He was a funny old man. Anyway just a few thing about the camps. If anyone is interested in seeing what the new modern versions are like you are more than welcome to take a look at http://www.trccamps.com.
Thanks again for your blog because these camps are a part of a number of peoples heritage.
Thanks again,
Mike

Mike - February 9, 2011 Reply

Hello All,
I really enjoyed your blog about sheep wagons; I am the general manager of a company that still builds sheep wagons, sheep camps, gypsy wagons, range camps. For over a hundred years they =have been know by many names, but no matter what they are call they have served people well for a lot of years. You would be sup-prized how many camps there are out there that are 60 years old that are still being used to day. Here are some interesting things about sheep camp generally the door is on the front and is always a Dutch door (I have seen a few camps that have a side door) the door was placed here so that a they could drive their team of horses etc… When you come in the door if the wood-burning stove is on your right hand side it is considered a sheep camp if it is on the left it would be a gypsy camp. If the door swings to the right again it is a sheep camp if to the left it is considered a cow camp. There is a lot of tradition and heritage in these camps. In fact I had an old sheep man approach me one day as he was looking at one of our Timberline Range Camps and he told me that we were building our doors wrong, I fell for it and asked what was wrong he proceeded to explain that on all of the older camps the lower portion of the Dutch door is always smaller than the top half and that most people believed that that was so they could drive the team of horses. He then told me that this was not the reason, that the door was shorter so that the sheepherder could take a pee over it. He was a funny old man. Anyway, just a few thing about the camps. If anyone is interested in seeing what the new modern versions are like you are more than welcome to take a look at http://www.trccamps.com.
Thanks again for your blog because these camps are a part of a number of peoples heritage.
Mike

Teresa - March 29, 2011 Reply

Greetings Tiny House Enthusiasts!

Thanks for all the Tiny House inspiration! Living in CA, people mostly think my facination with this is a little “nutty”. But I’m determined to add a Sheep Wagon Tiny House to my Urban Farm!

Could someone help me. I once came across a book in a store in Ennis, MT, that had great pictures and ideas for sheep wagons converted to tiny houses. In particular it included a picture of Demi Moore’s sheep wagon in Idaho. Is anyone familiar with the title of that book? Thanks a bunch!

Teresa

    Jane Hinz - August 3, 2014 Reply

    Are you looking for one to buy or build? I have an original sheep wagon that has been put on a two wheel, road worthy, iron frame. Also insulated and covered with vinyl. When I bought it, they were using it for Elk camp, and was very rough. I’ve fixed up and repaired the inside…gypsy wagonish. Very pretty. Original stove was not in it, but I needed a porta potty worse. Used for camping.
    Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll email pictures.
    Jane

    Jane - August 3, 2014 Reply

    I have one for sale

Jordan Nelson - May 31, 2011 Reply

Hi, I am looking for information about “Home on the Range” brand sheep wagons. They were built by my wife’s family during the 1930s-1950s. Ahlander was their name.
thanks!

    Chris Jeppesen - December 20, 2012 Reply

    When Was a kid Ahlanders had a hardware store on the corner of 5th south and university ave in provo ut. The built sheep camps in the back. I was in the sheep camp shop when i was about 6 (1955) but i don’t know why or any more about the history of the Ahlander sheep camp.

Sheepherder wagon | Dinsersfarm - September 18, 2012 Reply

[…] Sheep WagonsApr 27, 2009 … I was lucky enough to visit a working sheep herders wagon when I was about 10 years old (1976). I didn’t consider myself lucky at the time … […]

Julie’s Sheep Wagon - May 13, 2013 Reply

[…] Sheep wagons originated in Wyoming around the 1870′s with the development of the sheep industry. A sheepherder would follow his or her herd of sheep around the countryside and would use a sheep wagon for shelter from the harsh western weather. Sheep wagons are still used today by herders in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Nevada, but original sheep wagons are getting more difficult to find and maintain. […]

Dave - January 14, 2014 Reply

I have been detailing the construction of a two wheeled sheep wagon in the general forum at small-cabin.com. It is just about done and I have tried to point out issues that come up during the construction and ways to resolve them. Lots of how to photos.

Dave - January 14, 2014 Reply

I probably should add the thread title, “Going Mobile”

Jane - August 3, 2014 Reply

I have one for sale

Legalizing the Tiny House | Sightline Institute - June 27, 2016 Reply

[…] Though 70 square feet is still a rigid requirement for habitable rooms, it’s actually a step in the right direction. In 2015, the International Code Council reduced this requirement from 120 square feet, making building tiny to code much more feasible. Continuing to adapt existing building codes to tiny abodes, or creating a new certification process specific to tiny homes, would be a big step toward unbanning a housing form that’s as old as the sheepherder’s wagon. […]

Main Problem with Tiny Houses: They’re Illegal | RV Business - June 29, 2016 Reply

[…] Though 70 square feet is still a rigid requirement for habitable rooms, it’s actually a step in the right direction. In 2015, theInternational Code Council reduced this requirement from 120 square feet, making building tiny to code much more feasible. Continuing to adapt existing building codes to tiny abodes, or creating a new certification process specific to tiny homes, would be a big step toward unbanning a housing form that’s as old as the sheepherder’s wagon. […]

Bob Heavirland - August 1, 2016 Reply

Nice article. I have built a wagon and written a book with instructions on building. Hansen Wheel and Wagon have both for sale on their website.

How to Legalize Building and Living in Tiny Houses | WilderUtopia.com - August 23, 2016 Reply

[…] Though 70 square feet is still a rigid requirement for habitable rooms, it’s actually a step in the right direction. In 2015, the International Code Council reduced this requirement from 120 square feet, making building tiny to code much more feasible. Continuing to adapt existing building codes to tiny abodes, or creating a new certification process specific to tiny homes, would be a big step toward unbanning a housing form that’s as old as the sheepherder’s wagon. […]

Ya ya Ya - August 25, 2016 Reply

What laws let them live in those amazing ittybitty homes? Tiny house people pay attention.

PeaPod Early Sketches | Kev Polk - January 31, 2017 Reply

[…] PeaPod brainstorming drawings. I began it as a way to cut personal consumption by 95% while living in comfort and style. It would achieve this with a  wood burning stove, a composting toilet, rainwater catchment, and solar power. The design includes touches from several small sailboats I’ve lived on. I was also inspired by modern takes on the Romany Vardo and western sheep wagon. […]

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