De Atlas Etnográfico de Vasconia
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Animals raised in stalls have usually included cows to produce milk and calves to be fattened. Pigs have always been essential for nearly all households and poultry, including hens and chickens, have been kept for their meat and eggs, along with rabbits. Apart from the aforementioned animals, draught animals, such as oxen, donkeys, mules and horses, were raised to help with the ploughing and to transport implements, fodder and harvests. Dogs and cats have also lived in outside buildings and in the house.

The traditional stable

Enclosures located in the homestead itself: the pen

The size of the pen and its relationships with the rest of the dwelling depended on the different types of agricultural houses.

The data collected show that it was common for stables to be located in the house itself, on the ground floor. When the pen was on the ground floor, the family lived on the floor immediately above it and therefore benefitted from the warmth given off by the domesticated animals to heat the living quarters.

Stables separate from the house

In Agurain (A), apart from the pen, the name used when the animal quarters were under the dwelling, there were adjacent buildings with a corrugated roof, sometimes adjoining the house and sometimes separate from it. They mainly provided shelter for the animals that grazed on the common land in the warmer months, and were particularly used by ewes and nanny goats. In the 1990s, keeping livestock in the pens in the houses in the town's urban centre was banned.


The first mangers were made out of timber and planks, and also of stone or a combination of both materials. Concrete began to be gradually introduced. It was initially used along with timber and stone and it then became the main construction material.


The dirt floor of the pens was mainly covered with bracken, straw or dried grass. This was known as azpiak egin in Beasain (G), azpigarria bota in Ajuria and Ajangiz (B), changing or making the bed in Urkabustaiz (A). It meant the floor was kept dry for the livestock and it also made it easier to pile up and collect the manure and for the faeces and urine to ferment. This bed is known as kamaiña in Larraun (N).

Modern stables. Changes occurred

Larger and better facilities, which remote from the houses, only began to be built in the last decades of the 20th century, either because they were needed for intensive livestock farming or for hygiene reasons.

In Araia (A), the stabling is now a modern, large, hygienic structure, away from the homestead or house, which has little or nothing to do with the ones that those same farmers had halfway through the century.

Enclosures for animal husbandry


In Améscoa (N), the piggery was built using oak planks. The gap in the door was closed using a thick board known as a “taca”. The trough for the feed was near to the pigpen on the floor. In the same way as other mangers, this was a beech or oak log hollowed out using an axe and adze.

Hen houses

Hens were raised in hen houses or in the pens under the houses, which they shared with the other livestock or smaller animals, such as rabbits and ducks.

They were usually turned out or in the yard during the day and then protected in the pen at night (Agurain, Bernedo, Moreda, Ribera Alta, Treviño, Urkabustaiz-A; Carranza, Orozko, Urduliz, Zeanuri-B; Astigarraga-G; Izal-N). In Elosua (G), the hens were left outdoors in the summer and remained in the hen house in winter.

Rabbit hutches

In many of the towns surveyed, rabbits were raised in hutches made out of planks. They were types of boxes with wire mesh across the front, which was actually called rabbit mesh in some places. The hutch was placed against one of the walls of the house, in the pen or in a separate corrugated shelter.

In Urduliz (B), rabbits were kept in the pen or in the corrugated shelter, in wooden boxes called konejerak. They were kept in the txabola of the oven when it was not being used. The rabbit hutch was a wooden box measuring around 70x70 cm. If the hutches were longer, they were divided into two sections and the male was kept separate from the female. The front of the box was made out of wood or wire mesh. The base was sometimes made out of wire mesh as well. The floor of the box was covered with dry grass, which was changing regularly as it became soiled with urine, faeces and food remains.


Dovecotes were frequently located under the eaves. In Allo (N), some houses had their small dovecote in a grain store at the top of the house. Breeding these birds was never common in the village, but there were always families who kept them. The dovecote always had a small outside window that could be closed with wire mesh or left open to let the birds out. In this case, an old porcelain jug or an aluminium urn hung from a stick as a point of reference for them[1].

  1. However, there were times when the doves were not let out, as envisaged in an article of the 1917 Municipal Byelaws: “Dovecote owners have to keep them closed in October and November, and from 15 June to 15 August, to avoid the damage they could cause to sowings. Offenders shall be fined according to current provisions”.