From Atlas Etnográfico de Vasconia
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Ganadería y Pastoreo en Vasconia (Cattle and Grazing in Vasconia) is the title of an ethnographic research report by the Grupos Etniker Euskalerria under the direction of Ander Manterola. The report is part of the Atlas Etnográfico de Vasconia (Ethnographic Atlas of Vasconia) originally designed by José Miguel de Barandiaran and which has published four other works to date: La Alimentación Doméstica (Home Food) (1990, reprint 1999), Juegos Infantiles (Children’s Games) (1993), Ritos Funerarios (Funeral Rites) (1995) and Ritos del Nacimiento al Matrimonio (Rites from Birth to Marriage) (1998).

Research work was done in Vasconia, an area of western Europe that stretches either side of the Pyrenees from the river Adour in the north to the river Ebro in the south. It covers two political areas of Spain (the autonomous community of the Basque Country and the Foral, or Chartered, community of Navarra) and part of the French Pyrénées Atlantiques department. In all, the region takes in 20,531 square kilometres and has a population of 2,910,276 inhabitants (1999).

Fieldwork was performed in the country, hills and mountains of Álava, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Navarra, Baja-Navarra, Lapurdi and Zuberoa. Regional diversity within the overall area played a decisive role in the features of the people and places surveyed. The ethnographic questionnaire used figures in the Guía para una encuesta etnográfica (Guide for an ethnographic survey) (Chap. III. Groups of activity) by José Miguel de Barandiaran and, specifically, the questions referring to Cattle and Grazing (questions 1-55).

The report was prepared and written at the Instituto Labayru’s Ethnography Department.

The report itself takes a look at the traditional forms of cattle breeding and grazing in the mountains and fields of Vasconia. The early chapters (1-4) deal with the rearing of animals, their types and pedigrees, and the kind of treatment they receive from their keepers. Major differences between the Atlantic and Mediterranean areas were observed in both the animals reared and their habitats.

The following chapters (5-7) look at the sheds, stalls, yards and pens where larger and smaller cattle are kept, what they eat and their reproduction processes. In the area overlooking the Bay of Biscay, the stall actually formed part of the house, while in the Mediterranean area the pen was usually independent of the living quarters.

Chapters 8 to 14 study mountain cattle, both free roaming and in controlled grazing. Accesses to the high pastures and mountain shepherding areas are extensively described, together with animal branding marks and how flocks are moved in search of new pastures.

The shepherd himself provides the central theme of chapters 15 to 18, which deal with the different classes of shepherd according to the grazing system used, the clothes needed to survive life outdoors, how a shepherd’s hut or shelter was furnished, his crafts activities and how animals attacking the flock are hunted down. An extensive section covering chapters 19 to 23 is devoted to the produce of the pasture, including milk and dairy products, wool and the sacrifice and sale of the animals. The section concludes with a description of cattle-buying fairs where herds and flocks are renewed. Chapter 24 looks at beekeeping, which in the traditional world is seen as another part of cattle breeding.

Finally, chapters 25 and 26 discuss the beliefs and symbols linked to the protection of domestic animals. The report ends in chapter 27 with a brief incursion into the shepherd’s leisure time activities.

Like the previous four volumes and a number of as yet unpublished reports, this study of cattle keeping and grazing is part of the ongoing Ethnographic Atlas project designed to provide both a broad and detailed picture of life in Vasconia. This explains the lingering focus on traditional culture in the 20th century and contemporary transformations.