Transhumance, the seasonal droving of livestock along migratory routes in the Mediterranean and in the Alps
Inscribed in 2019 (14.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Transhumance, the seasonal droving of livestock along migratory routes in the Mediterranean and the Alps, is a form of pastoralism. Every year in spring and autumn, thousands of animals are driven by groups of herders together with their dogs and horses along steady routes between two geographical and climatic regions, from dawn to dusk. In many cases, the herders’ families also travel with the livestock. Two broad types of transhumance can be distinguished: horizontal transhumance, in plain or plateau regions; and vertical transhumance, typically in mountain regions. Transhumance shapes relations among people, animals and ecosystems. It involves shared rituals and social practices, caring for and breeding animals, managing land, forests and water resources, and dealing with natural hazards. Transhumant herders have in-depth knowledge of the environment, ecological balance and climate change, as this is one of the most sustainable, efficient livestock farming methods. They also possess special skills related to all kinds of handicraft and food production involved. Festivities during springtime and autumn mark the beginning and end of transhumance, when bearers share food, rituals and stories and introduce younger generations to the practice. Chief herders pass on their specific know-how to the younger generations through daily activities, ensuring the continued viability of the practice.