Flocks of sheep take over central Madrid during annual migration

Central Madrid rang to the sound of sheep bells on Sunday (October 24) as shepherds guided their flocks through the heart of the Spanish capital following ancient migration routes.

Locals lined the route to welcome back the traditional spectacle, which was cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, which started in 1994, allows shepherds to exercise their right to use traditional routes to migrate their livestock from northern Spain to more southerly pastures for winter grazing.

Shepherd Miguel Gonzalez, 52, has worked almost his entire life with the animals and said he was proud to support the traditional migration.

"We are reclaiming the Royal cattle routes that are old paths that were used to take cattle across Spain. From Castilla Leon to Extremadura and even down to Andalucia. They were paths where the cattle were taken. This is what the Royal cattle routes are. So we come here to Madrid every year to do the festivity of the migration and we like to come and support it," he said while guiding the sheep.

The route would have taken them through quiet countryside a few centuries ago, but today sees them traverse the busy city centre of Madrid.

"Marvelous, I come every year and it's the first time I have come with my child and he had a great time," said Graciela Gonzalez, 39.

The sheep walked to the sound of their jangling neck bells. Shepherds dressed in traditional dress accompanied their flocks with music and dancing.

Children more used to seeing traffic jams than herds of sheep on the city streets enjoyed the opportunity to get up close to the animals.

"We can sometimes touch them," said Carmen Iglesias, 8 who was watching with her dad and younger sister Noa, 6.

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