What is transhumance?

What is transhumance?

Thousands of years ago, human beings stopped using hunting and gathering fruits as the main source of food, and we started to cultivate and raise animals. This is where transhumance was born, a livestock activity that has accompanied us until the 21st century.

What is transhumance?

When we speak of transhumance, we speak of a grazing in which there is a movement of the slaughter animals and the people who accompany them, according to the seasons, to take advantage of food and climate changes.

Although it may seem like a nomadic activity different from livestock, the truth is that transhumance has a fixed core and several settlements that allow the shepherd to take care of the animals.

It is estimated that even today the transhumant activity occupies, together with the nomadic livestock, between 100 and 200 million people throughout the planet, exploiting land superior to agricultural land the planet.

Transhumance: livestock at the natural rate

One of the interesting things about transhumance is that it is based on natural rhythms. On the one hand, it is based on the different production of pastures and other plants of nature, which depends on the seasons.

Interestingly, grasses that suffer from droughts tend to be more nutritious, and even the animals that migrate take advantage of this nutritional rebound to be able to breed. In addition, pasture rotation allows meadows to be renewed and more biomass to appear the following year, which is more sustainable.

In fact, transhumance is based on migration in animals, and especially the huge migrations of large herbivores. That is why, like permaculture in the case of agriculture, transhumance takes advantage of nature for its benefit and squeezes it to the maximum without causing a strong impact, very different from industrial livestock in macrogranjas.

Transhumance in the world

There is still strong transhumant activity in various parts of the world; Transhumance is especially active in Africa, especially in the Sahel and the Magred, where Berber culture has had transhumance for years as one of its main economic activities.

Transhumance is still practiced in America, specifically in the United States, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The movements of Argentine cattle or llamas and other camelids are part of the transhumant culture of South America.

Transhumant grazing is also practiced in Asia, In both aspects of the mythical Himalayas, transhumance is practiced with the yak, a very rustic animal, adapted to the harsh conditions of the most colossal mountain chain in the world, capable of defending itself from predators such as the snow leopard.

Far to the north, in the Altai region and other mountainous areas of Mongolia, there are also multiple transhumant herds, which join those of northern Europe in species such as reindeer. Europe still has large cattle movements in the Alps, Balkans and Carpathians.

The transhumance in Spain

The transhumant activity in Spain has been very important and is part of its history; In the case of the Iberian Peninsula, even in the 21st century, 125,000 kilometers of cattle trails, gullies and other transhumant topography remain.

It is believed that the Celtic peoples already carried out this activity, especially between León and Extremadura; with the romanization of the peninsula, the Vía de la Plata becomes an important road that marks one of the main transhumant routes.

During the Middle Ages it acquires special interest, time in which a great diffusion of the pastoral culture would be allowed, which would leave culinary manifestations such as migas or architectonic as diverse types of aprisos and corrals. It has even been translated into the diffusion of certain autochthonous races and the breeds of corresponding grazing dogs.

Transhumance would lose weight due to the diffusion of the railroad and other means of transport; However, today there are still many transhumant routes in use, and many festivals and museums pay homage to this way of life that has been lost.

Why is transhumance important?

The importance of transhumance is that it is one of the most sustainable forms of meat production that respects the environment and animals; its gradual loss has been a pity but we must not forget the teachings that this form of production has transmitted to us.

With the empowerment of large industrial farms as opposed to extensive livestock, transhumance and grazing, we are not only losing a great cultural legacy, also in animal welfare and environmental impact.

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