Transhumance is a type of grazing activity which involves a process through which a group of animals can be moved to more fertile land so that in this way, the group can better feed on grass and different types of plants. . Transhumance has existed since ancient times and is carried out mainly by shepherds , who know the land well.


What is transhumance?

Transhumance is a type of grazing activity through which a certain group of animals can be mobilized to take advantage of the plants that serve as food and the changes in climate that improve the quality of life of the animals in a different place. .

  • Definition of transhumance
  • features
  • What is it for
  • History
  • Types
  • Transhumance in Spain
  • Bee transhumance
  • Festival of transhumance
  • Importance

Definition of transhumance

Transhumance is a type of grazing activity that is based on the seasonal displacement of cattle herds to other places so that they can take advantage of the green pastures that are maintained throughout the year. It is a type of livestock practice that has been in existence for thousands of years and currently occurs in a few places around the world.


Besides being an excellent mode of production , it is also considered as a lifestyle and as a culture in some countries. In some places, herders, in addition to moving their livestock, also mobilize their families in search of better pastures and more fertile lands for all their animals.


Among the main characteristics that can be observed in transhumance, the following are mentioned:

  • It is an activity based on natural rhythms .
  • It is based on the migration of animals , mainly those that belong to the group of herbivores.
  • Take advantage of all the benefits that nature provides .
  • It does not produce significant negative impacts on the environment.
  • It occurs mainly in places where there is a complementary type of climate .
  • It is practiced by shepherds who are also known by the name of Crianceros .
  • It occurs mainly in sheep and cattle.

What is it for

Transhumance is a process that is used to take a group or herd of animals to a different place with the sole objective of being able to supply a greater and better amount of nutrients and food to the animals. It is a means by which the correct feeding of the cattle can be guaranteed so that in this way they remain healthy and can provide better products to the shepherds.


The history of this activity has its beginnings from very ancient times and it has been developed over the years. Its main boom occurred during the 13th century and since then, thousands of head of cattle have managed to cross different places to be able to feed themselves better and produce greater profits at the same time . To achieve this process, a series of livestock routes were created , in other words, a series of roads through which livestock could travel.


The types of transhumance that exist are the following:

  • Local transhumance : it occurs when the journeys to be covered are short and generally takes place within the same area of ​​residence.
  • Transterminant transhumance : in this type of process, displacements are made over medium distances. the herds can pass the municipal limits and be located later in mountain ranges or plains.
  • Regional transhumance : this is the type of transhumance that generally makes long journeys from one State to another.

Transhumance in Spain

This type of activity has had a quite important boom in Spain and in fact, it is a fundamental part of the country’s history . The activity was generated from the time of the Celts and is an activity that is still practiced mainly in the Iberian Peninsula where the livestock routes are still in use. It is also important to remember that, during the Middle Ages , livestock was considered in Spain as one of the most important economic activities and that is where its importance comes from.

After the reconquest in the country, transhumance lost economic importance and the activity decreased considerably when compared to agriculture . Already in the 19th century, with the arrival of the railways , the activity lost its cultural value . Little by little and over time, the arrival of technological innovation has increased activity again. The implementation of walking tours, the development of new technologies including the use of GPS to locate sheep and tracking drones, have improved the technique for shepherds of the 21st century .

Bee transhumance

In the field of beekeeping , transhumance is a widely used procedure and is based on the movement of bees to a different geographical location from the original in order to find a place that has a greater amount of flowering to increase production. of products produced by bees. This process is very important if we remember that bees need flowers to be able to produce honey and other derivatives.

Through transhumance, it is possible to increase and start the different production seasons in certain places that enjoy floral splendor . Many experts consider that, despite being a widely used procedure even today, it is not entirely necessary.

To carry out this process, the beekeeper can rely on two different forms of transfer. One of them is the transfer to a closed hive and the other to an open hive . When the transfer of the bees can be done in a few hours and in cold climates , the bees can be locked up without any problem, and this is what is known as closed hive transport. When the hives are very populated, it is recommended to do it using the open hive transfer, especially if it is done in hot climates .

Festival of transhumance

The festival of transhumance is a very popular activity that has been carried out since 1994 in Madrid , Spain . It is a magical moment where the streets of the capital of the country are filled with flocks of sheep. The activity was created at the beginning of the 90s by the Transhumance and Nature Association and by the Madrid City Council . The main idea behind the creation of this festival was to be able to improve the grazing situation and to give greater importance to the livestock routes that had taken a back seat.

Today, the activity begins in the Plaza Mayor , from this place they leave being herded by their shepherds to go to Sol . Then they cross the Calle de Alcalá located in the Plaza de los Cibeles where all the local authorities are waiting for them. Later they return to the Casa de Campo and in this place a great communal meal is made.


The importance of the transhumance process is based on the fact that this is a type of activity that increases the production and proper maintenance of livestock to then produce meat in a more sustainable way without damaging the environment . In addition, it is one of the most natural ways to provide adequate feeding to the herds so that they can stay healthy.

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