A sheep takeover of Madrid! Yes, you read that right. Our fluffy four-legged friends stormed the city a few weeks ago, on Sunday, October 20, 2019 and seized temporary control of the major streets and passageways in Madrid, Spain. Around mid-day, the city became completely taken over by a flood of ovine traffic for a few hours—and I was there to see it all in action.
Why did thousands of sheep overrun Madrid?
Apparently, this occurrence takes place annually and is known as La Fiesta de la Trashumancia, which literally translates to the Transhumance Festival. The observance of this festival is organized by La Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza (Association of Transhumance and Nature).
Each year, flocks consisting of thousands of sheep and hundreds of goats are herded from northern parts of Spain to southern locations where the pastures are warmer during the winter. There are several migration routes, all heading southbound, one of them being the one I saw pass through Madrid.
Besides the obvious benefits for livestock farmers, this yearly migration also helps to demonstrate and promote awareness of the importance of agriculture in Spain, as agriculture is one of Spain’s strongest industries. Hence why, I suspect, they are still able to go through a metropolitan city as large as Madrid, despite all the possible logistical complications that could arise from doing so. ¡Viva la sheep parade!
My Walk Alongside the “Sheep Parade”
I’ve decided to dub this event the Sheep Parade because that’s essentially what it is. Mass numbers of sheep and goats were herded through the center of the city, strolling down main roads such as Paseo del Prado, Gran Vía, Calle de Alcala, Calle Mayor, and even passing through what I consider Madrid’s most populated tourist crossing: Puerta del Sol.
That being said, ovejas (sheep in Spanish) are not the only spectacle to see in this parade. I also saw various groups of performers, such as dancers and musicians dressed in traditional rural outfits, and cows and bulls walking the same route. A team of sheep herders and their dog companions kept the sheep moving in the direction of the procession.
Initially, I started watching the parade near an intersection of two primary thoroughfares, Gran Vía and Paseo del Prado. However, I hadn’t charged my phone the night before, so I made the decision to quickly return home to grab my portable power bank charger. When I returned to the intersection, the parade had already moved much further ahead. Since I hadn’t yet seen the sheep, I resolved to race to catch up to the herd.
Once I finally found the sheep near Puerta del Sol, I somehow ended up accidentally becoming a part of the parade because the streets were so narrow at that point. I think you might actually be allowed to walk with them, but I’m not sure. There were others following along, and nobody seemed bothered by us, so I figured I’d stick around. I ended up walking the rest of the parade route alongside the sheep, so in a sense I was being herded as well. Silly guiri me. Baaaa!
Sheep Parade or Sh*t Parade?
If you ever happen to find yourself in an unlikely, similar situation where you are in a sheep parade, make sure to maintain a safe distance from the sheep, because there are points where the streets can get extremely narrow and you risk getting pushed or trampled on. Luckily, I didn’t have any problems with that.
What is almost impossible to avoid, however, is the sheep poop. It is everywhere. Literally everywhere. That’s actually one of the ways I was able to track down the sheep when I was chasing after them—let’s just say they leave a very visible (and perhaps smellable) trail. My shoes definitely needed a wash after this.
Conveniently for me (and also slightly inconveniently, since I didn’t bring an umbrella), it started raining pretty much exactly at the moment we reached the end of the march, which washed away all the visible unwanted feces from my shoes, making them much easier to clean later on.
That’s about all I have to say about my walk with the sheep during La Fiesta de la Trashumancia. It’s events like these that really demonstrate how Madrid is like a big city with a small town feel.