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GOATHERDS AND SHEPHERDS

Thanks to its special physiographical conditions (relief, vegetation, climate, etc.) the Sierra de las Nieves has always been an area favourable to livestock breeding, which concentrated almost exclusively on sheep and goats. For this reason, goatherds and shepherds are nowadays, and in former times even more so, livelihoods that were a way of life for many of the inhabitants of our district, even though the work was hard, from sun-up to sun-down, every day of the year. But the goatherds and shepherds worked at their trade with the greatest human dignity that anyone could wish for.

Next to the regular living quarters of these professionals in livestock were the barnyards and stalls in which the animals were enclosed. Before the modern systems of wire fencing came into use, the farmyards were built with masonry walls, sometimes whitewashed, or with fences. As for the farmhouses, we could say that the type of house depended on the financial means of each owner. The most usual type of house was a hut built on a base of stone walls, normally of dry-stone construction, on top of which a wooden framework was placed which, in turn, supported a roof of natural materials made of leaves of palmetto, dry heather, etc.

In certain cases, the habitual kind of goatherd or shepherd’s house was a house built with stone walls set with lime and sand, rendered and whitewashed. The whitewash helped to hold the building together, keep the rooms cool in summer, due to the colour, and to keep the living areas more hygienic, due to its disinfectant properties.

The characteristics of these extremely poor houses was due to the fact that in many cases they were located in the middle of the Sierra and people had to make the most of the materials found in the surrounding area. In the Sierra there are also rough-made shepherd huts, whilst they also used the many caves which, with a stone wall built at the entrance, could serve as refuge for both animals and humans.

Although the life of the goatherd or shepherd could be considered as being extremely harsh and ungratifying, it also provided notable benefits, amongst which fresh milk daily, which was used to make cheese, and the meat from the baby goats and lambs. Not forgetting of course the privileged knowledge that these professionals of the countryside had of their surroundings, from the medicinal plants to the lanes, animal tracks and shortcuts that lead from one part of the Sierra to another, apart from the endless aspects of verbally transmitted culture that was passed from father to son and has its roots in memory and reminiscences.

With his bag on his back, sling in hand and the help of a dog or two, the shepherds and goatherds drove the herds down from the chilly peaks to the valley where the climate was milder, to spend the winter. This was short term season migration, as in summer the herds returned to the highlands of the mountains to make the most of the fresher pastures that lasted longer in these areas.

 

 

 

Association for the Rural Development of Sierra de las Nieves

Edificio Sierra de las Nieves, Paraje de Río Grande-Las Millanas, s/n - 29109- Tolox (Málaga) - Phone: 952 48 28 21 - Fax: 952 48 29 44

Email: agdr@sierranieves.com