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Sheep farming has always been an important economic activity in Europe. What is more, close contact with nature and the isolation of the pastoral occupation have resulted in a unique cultural tradition associated with shepherding and pastoral life. Continuous movement of shepherds and herds from uplands to lowlands during summer and winter respectively, enriched the culture of the communities involved and created unique testimonies along the routes they followed.

The features of pastoral life, present even today, resulted in many common cultural elements among Europeans countries. The quasi-nomadic life style of shepherds and their relationship with nature, reflected in music, customs, dress, management of the herd, architecture, cuisine etc. Transhumance routes evolved to become economic development corridors, fostering commercial activities, eventually giving rise to settlements.

However, the economic and social environment changed and in the 2nd half of the 20th century a deterioration of the social image of the shepherd occurred. Young people did not favour shepherding as an occupation due to the conditions of isolation for a large part of the year and the resulting social exclusion, raising thus the danger of underestimating and eventually losing a rich and important cultural heritage.

More than that, sheep and goat breeding plays an important role in environmental protection, including maintenance of less fertile areas, bio-diversity, preservation of ecosystems and water quality, prevention of soil erosion, floods, avalanches and fires. Sheep and goat breeding in areas of poor soil quality is essential for the EU rural economy.

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With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union
With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union

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