Transhumance, Human Ecology in its purest state
If we had to look for an ideal example of Human Ecology, shepherding would be one of the models which represent it best, as it involves, directly, people, animals and the environment.
This activity exists since the origins of animal domestication, back in Neolithic times. Livestock herders have always been forced by lack of pasture, depending on the season of the year, to move their herds to more fertile regions, even crossing the Iberian Peninsula from North to South. Over the years, these routes became established creating cattle tracks and so Transhumance.
The importance of herding for the economy and the benefits it always generated for the Crown led Alfonso X to regulate and organise transhumance, creating the “Honrado Concejo de la Mesta” (Honourable Council of the Mesta), an institution to unite transhumant herders and ensure pastures for their livestock. Of course, in return they had to pay a tax (“pontazgo”) to the royal coffers when they passed certain points on the cattle-tracks like bridges or towns.
The image shows a view of the medieval bridge at the entrance to Manzanares El Real (Madrid), which crosses the river Manzanares and was an obligatory route for transhumance and therefore for paying tax.
Illustrator and graphic communicator © Miguel Angel Garcia Ramos