24 Oct, 2021 @ 09:00
1 min read

Trashumancia: Why flocks of sheep are filling the streets of Madrid today

'fiesta De La Transhumancia' In Madrid
the flock of sheep during the "Fiesta de la Transhumancia" Festival . the festival was set in 1994 to recognize drover's road as public and a unique heritage in the world. on October 20, 2019 in Madrid, Spain, Shepherds guided a flock of around 2,000 sheep through the streets of Madrid today in defence of ancient grazing and migration rights increasingly threatened by urban sprawl. (Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto)

EVERY year on a Sunday in late October the streets of central Madrid are transformed from a busy cosmopolitan metropolis to a pastoral scene from days gone by with crook wielding shepherds herding their flocks over the cobblestones.

Among the sheep are giant oxen and shaggy mastiffs, more used to guarding the flocks from the threat of wolves than the curious glare of tourists wandering off the Gran Via with oversized Primark bags.

Villagers wearing traditional garb march along in raised wooden clogs, traditional horns are blown, shepherds are known to break out into song and there is folk dancing.

Pastoral folk in traditional garb join in the procession. Photo: Fiona Govan

It may look like something from the Medieval times but this is the annual Fiesta de la Trashumancia – an event which celebrates the right of shepherds to drive their livestock along ancient agricultural routes from summer to winter pastures.

The shepherds stop at city hall in Cibeles to pay the mayor a symbolic toll for driving their livestock through the city. The fee  of 50 maravedis al millar (50 coins per thousand head of livestock) was agreed in the year 1418 and still stands.

Fiesta De La Trashumancia En Madrid
Hundreds of sheep along a street in downtown Madrid during Fiesta de la Transhumancia en Madrid. Photo: Cordon Press

In olden times, the migration would have taken place twice a year and sees tens of thousands of animals driven through the capital but nowadays it is a symbolic act involving less than 2,000 animals.

This year, the trashumancia takes place today and large crowds turned out as it cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

The best place to watch is at the Puerta de Alcala on Sunday morning.

10.30 –Flocks left the Casa de Campo and crossed over the Puente del Rey en route to the city.

11.00 – Flocks reach Calle Mayor and head towards the Puerta del Sol. 

12.00 – Flocks walk from the Puerta del Sol, down Calle de Alcalá towards Cibeles.

12:30 – Flocks arrive at the Plaza de Cibeles

13.00 – A ceremony is held outside City Hall where payment is made to the mayor.

13.30 – Shepherds begin the return route from Cibeles back towards the Casa del Campo

14.00 – The procession reaches Puerta del Sol and moves up Calle Maypor and Cuesta de la Vega

14.30 – Arrives back at the Casa de Campo

For more information go to the Madrid Ayuntamiento website HERE.

Captura De Pantalla 465


Fiona Govan

Fiona Govan joined The Olive Press in March 2021. She moved to Spain in 2006 to be The Daily Telegraph’s Madrid correspondent and then worked for six years as Editor of The Local Spain. She lives in Madrid’s Malasaña district with her dog Rufus.

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