SHEEP took over Madrid’s city centre on Sunday with shepherds steering their flocks through the heart of the capital along ancient migration routes.
The annual event, which started in 1994, sees shepherds exercise their right to use traditional routes to move their livestock from northern Spain to more southerly winter grazing pastures.
1,200 merino sheep and 200 goats were led by a woman for the first time- Marity Gonzalez.
Modern farming methods have reduced the practice of transhumance – the seasonal movement of livestock – to a small group of farmers that keep the tradition alive through associations such as the Concejo de la Mesta, who are responsible for the Transhumance Festival in Madrid.
The route would have taken them through undeveloped countryside a few centuries ago, but today it cuts through Madrid’s bustling city centre and along some of its most famous roads.
Sheep farmers pay a nominal charge in symbolic acknowledgement of a 1418 agreement with the city council.
It works out at a fee of 50 maravedis- medieval coinage- per 1,000 sheep brought through the central Sol square and Gran Via.
Marity Gonzalez said she represented ‘all the transhumant women farmers and shepherdesses of Spain’ and that women have ‘always’ have been part of transhumance.
Madrid mayor, Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida welcomed the shepherd and livestock farmers and also acknowledged Gonzalez as being the first woman to lead the march.