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Madrid taken over by hundreds of sheep for annual festival

Flocks of sheep and goats are herded in the city centre of Madrid on October 20, Image copyright AFP

Madrid’s streets were left baa-dly congested on Sunday, as more than 2,000 sheep passed through its bustling city centre for an annual event.

The Spanish capital sits on ancient migration route where shepherds would move their livestock south for the winter.

The event is known as Fiesta de la Trashumancia (transhumance festival) and is promoted by local tourist authorities.

The festival started in 1994 and is designed to pay homage to the area’s rural heritage.

Sheep line a road lined with tourists in the city centre Image copyright EPA
Hundreds of sheep are led through a street in downtown Madrid Image copyright EPA

It exploits a medieval rule which allows shepherds the right to cut through the city with their animals.

Every year, a nominal fee is paid in exchange for the safe passage of the animals, in a ceremony between the mayor and the chief herdsman at the city hall.

It honours a 1418 agreement with the city’s council where the price of 50 maravedís al millar (50 coins per thousand heads of livestock) was set for the animal traffic.

Flocks of sheep are herded in front of the city hall in Madrid Image copyright AFP

Some accompanying the animals wear traditional clothing, including clogs, for the festivities.

Visitors to the city on Sunday took some time to take in the bizarre sight – with the capital unusually free of traffic.

“We didn’t know but we were lucky,” one tourist told Reuters news agency.

“We just arrived yesterday and they told us it’s going on today. And we were like – oh yes! Once a year and we are here.”

Flocks of sheep and goats are herded in the city centre of Madrid on October 20 Image copyright AFP

Many of the sheep wore bells for the occasion, which made for a noisy affair on Madrid’s streets.

The event started at 10:30 (08:30 GMT) local time in the city’s largest park – Casa de Campo.

From there, the sheep made for city hall for the traditional payment ceremony, before heading back out by 14:00.

Aside from the 2,000 merino sheep on the city streets there were also about 100 goats in attendance, Reuters reports.

A goat stares into the camera in a close-up shot Image copyright EPA

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