Madrid • Shepherds led a flock of 2,000 sheep through Madrid on Sunday in defense of ancient grazing, droving and migration rights increasingly threatened by urban sprawl and modern agricultural practices.
Tourists were surprised to see downtown traffic cut to permit the ovine parade to bleat — bells clanking — across some of Madrid's most upmarket urban settings.
Since at least 1273, shepherds have had the right to use droving routes that wind across land that was once open fields and woodland before Madrid mushroomed to the great metropolis it is today.
Every year, a handful of shepherds defend that right in Spain's capital city. Following an age-old tradition, they paid 25 maravedis — coins first minted in the 11th century — to city hall officials to use the crossing.