Sheep, goats cross downtown Madrid in echo of past practice

Category: Lifestyle/Entertainment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. recreate / ˈrɛk riˌeɪt / (v.) – to make something happen or exist again

    The city is planning to recreate the old practice of pottery making in the upcoming festival.

  2. graze / greɪz / (v.) – to eat grass or other plants growing in a field

    The sheep grazed on grass in the wide field.

  3. pasture / ˈpæs tʃər / (n.) – a large area of land covered in grass where animals eat

    He led the cows and goats to a pasture.

  4. symbolic / sɪmˈbɒl ɪk / (adj.) – referring to an action that expresses an intention or feeling, but has very little practical value

    The crowning during the ceremony was just a symbolic gesture.

  5. drover / ˈdroʊ vər / (n.) – a person whose job is to drive or move groups of animals from one place to another

    Our drover will bring the goats and cows to your farm next week.


Read the text below.

The bleating and bells of some 1,200 sheep and 200 goats took over downtown Madrid on the morning of October 23 as part of a festival that recreates the pastoral practice of moving livestock to new grazing grounds.

Shepherds herded the animals through the paved streets of the Spanish capital while reenacting what their ancestors did for centuries: move flocks from cool highlands in the summer to lowland winter pastures.

Madrid, Spain’s lively capital city, has always been part of the 125,000-kilometer (78,000-mile) grid of farming paths that cover the Iberian Peninsula.

As part of the Transhumance Festival, organizers make a symbolic payment for the right to use the drovers‘ route that crosses the capital. The payment presented at Madrid’s city hall in medieval Spain’s currency consists of 50 maravedis, as stated in an agreement between the city and shepherds that dates back to 1418.

The closeness of the animals delighted the urban dwellers who gathered to watch the unfamiliar ritual. Children tried to touch the soft merino wool of the locally bred sheep.

Madrid has held the festival since 1994, and towns and smaller cities in Italy, France and California hold similar events.

In Spain, modern farming methods have reduced practicing transhumance – the seasonal movement of livestock – to a small group of farmers that keep the tradition alive through associations such as Concejo de la Mesta, who are responsible for the Transhumance Festival in Madrid.

They promote transhumance for advantages such as sustainability, cultural value and environmental protection since areas walked by sheep are less prone to wildfires.

According to the Transhumance and Nature Association, 52 families carry out the practice in Spain.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Modern farming methods have reduced practicing transhumance. Do you think traditional farming practices should still be kept despite the development of modern farming methods? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What’s a very old tradition that’s slowly disappearing in your country? Do you think it’s important to keep practicing it? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Small towns and cities in Italy, France, and California also hold events like the Transhumance Festival. Why do you think they have similar events? Discuss.
  • Are there any traditions or festivals in your country that celebrate old farming methods? Why do you think it’s important to continue celebrating these? Discuss.