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Sheep replace cars as they cross Madrid en route to winter pastures

shepherds steer their flocks through madrid, following an ancient migration route
People watch a flock of sheep during the annual parade on the streets of Madrid, as shepherds demand to exercise their right to use traditional migration routes for their livestock from northern Spain to winter grazing pasture land in southern Spain. REUTERS/Javier Barbancho

The streets of Madrid were filled with sheep and the clanking of bells on Sunday as shepherds guided their flocks through the heart of the Spanish capital, following ancient seasonal herding routes.

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

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

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

“It’s marvellous. I come every year and this is the first year I’ve brought the children so it’s amazing,” said Graciela Gonzalez, 39.

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

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

“We can sometimes touch them,” said Carmen Iglesias, eight, who was watching with her father and younger sister Noa, six.

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