Madrid prepares for sheep invasion

Every year on one particular October Sunday, the streets of Madrid set the stage for a very unusual sight.

Madrid prepares for sheep invasion
Photos: AFP

Traffic is diverted from the city centre to make way for herds of sheep guided over the cobblestones and through the plazas by crook wielding shepherds in an ancient tradition.

And it’s not just sheep. There are usually a few giant oxen and herds of goats among the livestock accompanied by villagers who look like they have stepped out of the middle ages.

Clogs are worn, traditional horns are blown and there is folk dancing.

This is all part of the Fiesta de la Trashumancia, an event which celebrates the ancient agricultural right for shepherds to drive their livestock through the capital from the summer to winter pastures.

Records show that in 1418, the city imposed a fee of 50 maravedís al millar (50 coins per thousand heads of livestock) from shepherds and this payment still stands and is delivered to the mayor in person at the Cibeles palace on Sunday morning.

Once upon a time the migration would have taken place twice a year and involved tens of thousands of animals but nowadays it is a symbolic act involving less than 2,000 animals.

Spain's Ministry of Agriculture has been keeping the tradition alive by promoting the festival since 1994.

When and where?

In 2019, the trashumancia takes place on Sunday October 20th.

To see the phenomena for yourself find a place to watch along the route between the Casa de Campo and the Puerta de Alcala

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.

14.00 – Shepherds begin the return route back towards the Casa del Campo

To coincide with the trashumancia a farmers market selling produce from the Madrid sierra will take place in the Galería de Cristal del Ayuntamiento at Cibeles.

READ MORE: Sheep also Madrid's largest park into shape

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Madrid police end escaped camels’ night on the town

Eight camels and a llama took to the streets of Madrid overnight after escaping from a nearby circus, Spanish police said on Friday.

A camel in a zoo
A file photo of a camel in a zoo. Photo: ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP

It was not immediately clear how the long-legged runaways managed to get out but Quiros Circus, which owns them, blamed sabotage by animal rights activists.

They were spotted at around 5:00 am wandering around the southern district of Carabranchel close to where the circus is currently based.

“Various camels and a llama escaped from a circus in Madrid overnight,” Spain’s national police wrote on Twitter, sharing images of eight two-humped camels and a llama hanging around a street corner.

“Police found them and took care of them so they could be taken back safe and sound,” they tweeted.

There was no word on whether the rogue revellers, who are known for spitting, put up any resistance when the police moved in to detain them.

Mati Munoz, one of the circus’ managers, expressed relief the furry fugitives — Bactrian camels who have two humps and thick shaggy coats – had been safely caught.

“Nothing happened, thank God,” he told AFP, saying the circus had filed a complaint after discovering the electric fence around the animals’ enclosure had been cut.

“We think (their escape) was due to an act of sabotage by animal rights groups who protest every year.”

Bactrian camels (camelus bactrianus) come from the rocky deserts of central and eastern Asia and have an extraordinary ability to survive in extreme conditions.

These days, the vast majority of them are domesticated.