IberiaNature A guide to the natural history of Spain
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Shepherds and mastins in the Sierra de la Culebra

Unlike most areas of Spain, sheep are still heavily protected in the Sierra de la Culebra. This flock of some 350 animals was protected by six huge Leonese mastins. They sell for some 450 euros a go. There were also three smaller sheepdogs dogs for rounding up. The two different breeds demonstrate how the wild characteristics of the wolf have been adapted to produce animals useful to humans. The hunting instinct in the mastin has all but disappeared- a good mastin shouldn’t even chase a stick- it’s role is to protect the pack or wolf cubs – the sheep- while sheepdogs still chase, harry and bite at the legs of their play prey. See Castilla-Leon govenment involves shepherds in wolf conservation (Spanish -FAPAS 24-10-05)

There is less antipathy towards the wolf here than in other areas because of the level of protection and because there is no shortage of wild prey (red and roe deer, boar). This said, it is probably the existence of extensive livestock which kept the wolf alive in the Sierra de la Culebra and other areas of Spain when game species all but disappeared during the first half of the 20th century as the spread of firearms took its toll.

The shepherd we spoke to on one trip told us he had seen a wolf just once this year. He’s well protected and will only lose one or two animals a year. He was surprisngly young and lacked the hate of the wolf understandably common among older shepherds.

La Cañada Real

This Cañada Real forms part of a huge but decaying network of ancient drover’s paths across the Peninsula, created as part of a transhumance system, in search of winter grass in warm southern Spain and summer grass in the colder north. The Castellana in Madrid is an old drover’s path. Some are ancient and there is evidence to suggest that humans merely took advantage of the routes employed by wild animals in search of fresh pasture, as gnus, zebras and the like still do in Africa. First they followed as hunters, then after domestication they continued with their animals as herders. If you keep following this one you’ll end up in  Caceres.
Right. La Venta del Lobo. Impossibly bleak and ruined resthouse along the Cañada Real. A cherry tree is often the sign of old human habitation.



Trip details

Trip report 1

Trip report 2

Sierra de la Culebra geography

Humans and wolves in the Sierra de la Culebra

Shepherds and mastins

Wolf tracking

Wolves in Spain
(complete article)

Reasons for the rise in the wolf population in Spain

Distribution, habitat and diet of wolves in Spain - Iberian wolf population (2005 estimates)

Conflict with livestock and humans

Wolf traditions and legends in Spain

Half-wolf, half-dog hybrids

The return of the wolf to Catalonia

Wolves in Iberian Languages


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