MADRID Ė Thousands of sheep and goats were driven through the heart of the Spanish capital Madrid on Sunday as shepherds laid claim to centuries-old transhumance routes that in many cases have been swallowed up by urban expansion.
A total of 1,550 merino sheep and 80 goats brought down from the mountains of Castile and Leon were herded through central Madrid past some of the cityís most iconic attractions, on what was the 600th anniversary of an accord granting shepherds the right to move livestock along royal drovers tracks.
Mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmena, who took part in the celebrations, renewed the 1418 deal and revealed plans to introduce 600 sheep to the cityís Casa de Campo, a 717-hectare (1,772-acre) public park to the west of the city center.
Curious onlookers packed Madridís sidewalks to catch a glimpse of the bewildered livestock, while participants dressed in period clothing provided a live soundtrack of folk music.
According to the Transhumance and Nature Association, Spain is the only country in the world with an extensive network of livestock tracks, which are around 125,000 kilometers (77,700 miles) long and cover some 420,000 hectares. It has been protected since the 13th century.
The network allows livestock to travel over 1,000 kilometers in spring and fall over the course of two months, a movement which experts say also functions as a cheap and sustainable way to preserve ecosystems.