Spanish shepherds guide 2,000 sheep through downtown Madrid, defending centuries-old rights

Shepherds have guided a flock of 2,000 sheep through Madrid's streets in defense of ancient grazing, droving and migration rights increasingly threatened by urban sprawl and modern agricultural practices.

Tourists and city-dwellers were surprised to see the capital's traffic cut to permit the ovine parade to bleat — bells clanking — its way past the city's most emblematic locations.

Shepherds halted at the town hall so the chief herdsman could hand authorities 25 maravedies — copper coins first minted in the 11th century — as payment for the crossing. They then continued past central Puerta del Sol square and the Bank of Spain headquarters on their way to Retiro Park.

Some herding routes have been used annually for over 800 years and Madrid sprawls across one dating back to 1372.