Will tourists in Paris soon see flocks of baaing sheep at the Eiffel Tower and bleating ewes by Notre Dame cathedral?
That could be the case, since Paris City Hall this week installed a small flock of sheep to mow the lawn at the city's gardens, replacing gas-guzzling lawn mowers.
Four woolly ewes — shipped in from an island off the Brittany coast — are munching the grass surrounding the Paris Archives building. Other sites in and around Paris may follow suit.
The ovine operation follows a successful stint last year by two goats that were hired privately by the Louvre to mow the lawn at Tuileries, central Paris' grand 17th-century gardens. The four-legged workers contentedly munch day and night — oblivious of France's strict 35-hour workweek.
A similar experiment in a park outside Paris found that sheep droppings were a benefit, bringing swallows back to the area.
"It might sound funny, but animal lawn mowers are ecological, as no gasoline is required, and cost half the price of a machine," said Marcel Collet, Paris farm director. "And they're so cute."
Paris City Hall has big ambitions for its sheep. "I can imagine this very easily in London and New York, … even Tokyo," said Fabienne Giboudeaux, director of green spaces. "And why not have them at the Eiffel Tower?"
A private French company known as Ecomouton (Ecosheep in English) has 260 sheep working the premises of top companies such as Gaz de France. Ecomouton plans to expand to more than 600 sheep by the end of 2013.
Its director, Sylvain Girard, said he's surprised by the success, with interest coming in from countries such as Britain, Germany, Belgium and Russia.