Transhumance is the seasonal movement of livestock between mountainous and lowland pastures. It occurs throughout the world, including France, Italy, Romania, Turkey and amongst the Sami people of Scandinavia. This practice is based on the difference of climate between the mountains (where the herds stay during the summer) and the lowlands (where they remain the winter). Its importance to pastoralist societies cannot be understated. Milk, butter and cheese - the products of transhumance - often form the basis of the local population's diet.
In the past transhumance was widespread throughout Europe, in some areas - such as the Isle of Lewis in Scotland - within living memory. Today much of the Alpine transhumance is carried out by truck. In other parts of the world a more traditional approach is maintained; for regions of the Himalaya transhumance still provides the mainstay of several near subsistence economies - for example, that of Zanskar.
Often traditional nomadic groups that have subsequently settled into a regular seasonal pattern are described by anthropologists as practicing transhumance.
Transhumance is based on the difference of climate between the mountains (where the herds stay during the summer) and the lowlands (where they remain the winter).
The transhumance in the Pyrenees involves relocation of livestock (cows, sheep, horses) to the high mountains for the summer months, because farms in the lowland are too small to support a larger herd all year round.
Transhumance practices are found in temperate areas, above ~1000 m in the Himalaya–Hindu Kush area (referred to below as Himalaya); and the cold semi-arid zone north of the Himalaya, through the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau and northern China to the Asian steppe.
In the sixteenth century, Mediterranean transhumance was limited to the Iberian and Italian peninsulas and the south of France.
Transhumance existed in Spain, where in the north the rabadanes, professional Castilian shepherds, moved their sheep using slings and long crooks, packing only their mules and cooking pots.
Transhumance doesn't much exist today, many people having settled into a semi-sedentary life, such as the former transhumants of the little villages of the Akdag Mountains west of Denizli in western Turkey.
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