Trashumancia: Why flocks of sheep will fill the streets of Madrid this Sunday

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 carb 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 seens 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 will take place on Sunday October 24 and large crowds are expected after it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

Find a place to watch along the route between the Casa de Campo and the Puerta de Alcala on Sunday morning.

10.30 –Flocks leave the Casa de Campo and cross 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.

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