• Common Agricultural Policy;
  • livestock systems;
  • Pyrenees;
  • sheep transhumance;
  • Spain


For centuries, sheep transhumance has connected the Spanish highlands with the lowlands, creating a livestock system with important social, economic, cultural, and landscape effects. About 5 million sheep were involved in transhumant movements in the mid-1700s, but transhumance started to decay in the nineteenth century and almost disappeared in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1980s, transhumant sheep did not number more than 25,000 in the study area; at present the number exceeds 134,000, with herders practicing both descending and ascending transhumance. In this article we provide information not only on current numbers of transhumant sheep but also on the origins and destinations of the flocks. We also confirm that the reputation of transhumance, once regarded as quaint and antiquated, has been enhanced by the ecosystem services it provides and by the cultural and heritage continuities it renders.