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Transhumance or traveling pasture management is (according to German and Romansh literature) a predominantly market-oriented form of extensive remote pasture management under the care of semi-sedentary or semi-nomadic shepherds with a climate-related seasonal change in pasture areas in different climatic zones , because these only offer sufficient forage during one season. In the cold or dry season, the cattle graze (mostly) close to the permanent home of the sedentary owner, while the rest of the time they spend on distant pastures in a different climate zone. The term is mainly used for hikes between different altitudes in the mountains. The owners themselves farm or pursue other professions.

Transhumance takes place in each period basically on course entstandenem, mostly not eingehegtem pastures instead and is a form of land use that pastoralism is called (natural grazing). Stable housing in winter (as in alpine farming ) rarely occurs with the classic forms and does not occur because of climate-related necessity.

Since the migrant pasture economy goes back to historical cultures of pastoral peoples and is partly also practiced for self-sufficiency ( subsistence economy ), it belongs to the traditional forms of economy . When the focus is on the production of one's own needs, one also speaks of "transhumant agropastoralism ".

From an ethnological (ethnological) perspective, the term unites all transitional forms between fully nomadic or mobile and sedentary or stationary livestock owners .

Migrant grazing should not be confused with nomadism , even if it is a common form of mobile animal husbandry among former nomadic peoples today.

Further characteristics

If the owners practice arable farming, this is generally practiced largely independently of livestock farming; there is no profound interaction. Under certain circumstances the animals graze in the harvested fields, on which little or no animal feed is grown.

The hikes - in which very long distances of a few hundred kilometers are covered - usually lead to higher altitudes due to summer dryness in the lowlands and from there back when snowfall makes grazing impossible. However, there are also reverse forms.


The word "transhumance" means "to lead to the mountain pasture" and goes back to the French transhumer or "transhumar" = "to wander" or specifically "to wander from herds". Another interpretation refers to the Latin trans and humus = "earth" and is translated as "beyond the cultivated earth".

Breakdown and diffusion of transhumance

Classic transhumance

Original distribution of transhumance in the Mediterranean area based on the approximate courses of the Trift paths (simplified after J. Schultz)

Temperate steppes Oceanic forests Continental forests Temperate mountains Subtropical wet forests Subtropical dry forests Subtropical steppes Subtropical mountains Hot deserts –– Drift paths

The transhumant herding (originally with goats and sheep) is tied to spaces that allow a hike between two climatically different and only seasonally usable, steppe-like grass or shrub areas. As a rule, there is one pasture in the plain and one in the mountains. Classic transhumance is a sensible way of keeping livestock in the global zone between 50 ° north and south latitude, provided that there are mountains and neighboring dry plains.

These conditions occur particularly frequently in the winter-humid and summer-dry Mediterranean climates and the adjoining subtropical arid regions , where annual rainfall ranges from 300 to 400 mm. The main distribution area extended well into the 20th century over the mountainous countries of the Mediterranean region ( Atlas Mountains in north-west Africa, central and southern Spain, southern France, southern Switzerland (Maggia and Verzasca valleys), Italy, the Balkans, the Carpathian region, Turkey, and the Caucasus Armenia).

In the classic form, shepherds employed by the owners of the herd were entrusted with driving and supervising the animals. In the past, the owners also farmed arable land . T. to other professions. The “nomadic” shepherds stay close to the animals during the summer season. Sometimes this form is also referred to as wage herding .

This original transhumance is now only rarely practiced south of the Alps to North Africa and in the Middle East, as the climatic conditions in the plains already allow more productive agricultural uses. In marginal areas, however, it is partly financially supported as a sustainable and environmentally friendly form of economy. It is still relatively common among the Berber tribes of the Atlas Mountains in North Africa.

In the course of European colonization, it has also established itself in other parts of the world, for example in the "Wild West" of the USA, in South and East Africa, in North Colombia and in the Brazilian mountains or in Tasmania. In some non-European countries, sometimes transhumant migrations are carried out with cattle. There are also various forms of transition to stationary livestock farming .

Yaylak pastoralism

Summer camp of Yaylak pastoralists in Kyrgyzstan

The so-called "Yailak or Dzhailoo pastoralism" (Russian Джайлоо), which can be found from Turkey to Central Asia, is often added to the classical form. Here the cattle instead of shepherds from a part of the local community itself driven to the mountain pasture (Yayla) that while there nomadic life in tents. In winter, the cattle are usually stabled in the villages. Yailak pastoralism today often replaces full nomadism, so that it is also included in mobile animal husbandry ( see below )

Other forms

In the geographical sciences, further subdivisions and designations are made as follows:

  • Normal or increasing transhumance = agriculture and winter pasture in the plains, summer pasture in the mountains. Widespread in the Mediterranean
  • Inverted or descending transhumance = agriculture and summer pasture in the mountains, winter pasture in the plains. Rare form, e.g. B. in Northwest Italy
  • Hibernal or tropical transhumance = agriculture in the mountains or the plains, summer pastures in the plains, winter pastures in the mountains. Especially in areas near the equator in South America or East Africa.
  • Small transhumance = agriculture in the mountains, summer and winter pasture in climatically changing locations in the mountains. Rare in the French Alps and Pyrenees.
  • Complex transhumance = more than two changes of pasture (mostly still spring and autumn pastures), possibly supplementary feeding and occasional stable keeping, the owner is located at one of the transitional pastures. Known from Spain, but above all from the western USA as a supplement to ranching (Central Utah, South Idaho).

Current forms

Visible overgrazing damage with risk of erosion in South India

As early as the 1960s, the so-called "mixed transhumance" increased everywhere, which is characterized by winter stalls and supplementary feeding due to a lack of pastureland. The shortage arose and is caused by the expansion of modern agriculture in the plains, so that the space for pasture is decreasing. Nevertheless, this form is still assigned to the classic migrant pasture management.

Much more common today than the traditional forms, however, is the herding of the former nomadic peoples , reduced to seasonal migration ; especially in the west u. South Sahara, East Africa, South Arabia and Central Asia. Herding is mostly semi-nomadic here and is similar to the Yaylak pastoralism already described. However, a model is used that is not adapted to regions with annual precipitation of a maximum of 300 mm. This development results in significant soil degradation everywhere and the danger of desertification (desertification). Against this background, some authors prefer to speak of mobile animal husbandry rather than transhumance.

Wrong assignments

Although alpine pasture farming in the Alps, as well as Seter farming ( Norwegian seter, sæter , Swedish säter, fäbod ) in the Scandinavian mountains have many parallels and are classified there in English literature, they are not transhumant: In contrast to hiking pasture farming, farmers use mountain pastures additional and not of necessity. Stable housing in winter, on the other hand, is absolutely necessary, and there is regular exchange between mountain and valley. Even the Icelandic high grazing economy is not transhumant despite “real” seasonal grazing, as the animals spend the summer without supervision. In France, migration with colonies of bees in special foraging areas, e.g. B. Chestnut or rapeseed called transhumance because a new bee pasture is being used.

See also



  • Arnold Beuermann : Remote grazing in Southeast Europe. A contribution to the cultural geography of the Eastern Mediterranean. Westermann, Munich 1967.
  • Thede Kahl : Effects of new borders on remote grazing. In: C. Lienau (Ed.): Borders and border areas in Southeast Europe. Südosteuropa-Jahrbuch 32, Munich, pp. 245-272.
  • Thede Kahl: Shepherds in contact. Language and culture change of former shepherds in Epirus and southern Albania. Balkanology 3, Münster, Vienna, New York: LIT, ISBN 978-3-8258-0944-7 .
  • Burkhard Hofmeister: Transhumance in the western United States of America. Reuter Society, Berlin 1958 ( doctoral thesis at the Free University of Berlin ).
  • Bernhard Hänsel : The steppe and the south-eastern European subcontinent. Nomadic incursions and transhumance. In: Civilization Grèque et Cultures Antiques Péripheriques - Hommage à P. Alexandrescu. Bucharest 2000, pp. 31-43.
  • Hans Haid : Ways of the Sheep: The millennia-old shepherd culture between South Tyrol and the Ötztal , Tyrolia, Innsbruck / Vienna and the Athesia publishing house, Bozen 2008 ISBN 978-3-7022-2901-6 / ISBN 978-88-8266-504-3 .
  • Tilman Welte : Pastoralism, Ecology and Society. The compulsions and strategies of transhuman cattle farmers in the wet savannah of the VR Benin (= social anthropological working papers. Volume 24). Das Arabisches Buch, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-923446-62-4 .

Web links

Commons : Transhumance  - Images and Media Files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Burkhard Hofmeister: Nature and manifestations of transhumance. In: Geography: Archive for Scientific Geography. No. 15/2, 1961, p. 131.
  2. ^ A b Hermann Kreutzmann: Hunza: rural development in the Karakoram. In: Treatises anthropogeography. Volume 44. Berlin. Pp. 127-128.
  3. a b c Tobias Kühr: Traditional diets in developing countries. Typical nutritional deficiencies and approaches to improving the nutritional situation using the example of Africa. Thesis. University of Jena, Jena 2007, pp. 13-14.
  4. ^ Sandra Calkins: Keyword transhumance in Annegret Nippa u. Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg (ed.): Small abc of nomadism. Publication for the exhibition “Explosive Encounters. Nomads in a sedentary world. " Hamburg 2011. p. 216
  5. ^ FAO : Pastoralism in the New Millennium. In Animal Production and Health Paper. No. 150, 2001.
  6. a b c Burkhard Hofmeister: Essence and manifestations of transhumance. In: Geography: Archive for Scientific Geography. No. 15/2, 1961, p. 122.
  7. Ulf Brunnbauer : Mountain Societies in the Balkans. Economy and family structures in the Rhodope Mountains (19th / 20th century). Böhlau, Vienna 2004, p. 198.
  8. ^ A b c Corina Knipper: The spatial organization of linear ceramic cattle farming: scientific and archaeological investigations. Geoscientific Faculty of the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, 2009. p. 103
  9. Jürgen Schultz: The ecological zones of the earth . Ulmer, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8252-1514-9 , p. 281.
  10. ^ European Natural Heritage Foundation: Transhumance - Natural wealth through tradition. In: Euronatur . No. 2, 2007, pp. 12-13.
  11. Burkhard Hofmeister: Essence and manifestations of transhumance. In: Geography: Archive for Scientific Geography. No. 15/2, 1961, p. 134.
  12. Mirjam Blank: Return to subsistence-oriented animal husbandry as a livelihood security strategy. High grazing in southern Kyrgyzstan. In: Occasional Papers Geography. Center for Research on Developing Countries (ZELF) at the Institute for Geographical Sciences, Free University of Berlin, issue 34, 2007, p. 12.
  13. a b Burkhard Hofmeister: Nature and manifestations of transhumance. In: Geography: Archive for Scientific Geography. No. 15/2, 1961, p. 123.
  14. Wolfgang Utschig: About the geographical consideration of remote grazing in Mediterranean regions, especially in Southeastern Europe, especially on the basis of examples, with specific excursions . Lancelot Series, 2nd edition, revised to Word 2003, little changed in content, 2009 edition of the first from 2005, Atlas 93 152 Nittendorf-Undorf near Regensburg 2009, pp. 45–46. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  15. Werner Doppler: Agricultural operating systems in the tropics and subtropics. Ulmer Verlag, Stuttgart 1991. p. 25
  16. Animal husbandry and organic agriculture: a complicated relationship . P. 89, accessed April 26, 2014.
  17. Ilse Köhler-Rollefson: Hirtenvölker: Protectors of diversity. In: Ökologie & Landbau 156 4/2010, pp. 16–18.
  18. ^ Wolfgang Taubmann: Iceland's agriculture. In: Geography: archive for scientific geography. Volume XXIII, 1969, p. 39.