A total of 12 adult sheep made their journey from Catalonia to Spain’s capital on Saturday morning, crossing the city by road and crossing into the Basque Country on foot.
“The road was often covered in bright yellow hay, which was scattered all over the road like a wall,” said Ana Acebes, the mayor of the village of Kortnoop, on the outskirts of the capital.
After a series of day trips, on Saturday afternoon the sheep finally crossed the River Manzanares into the forests of Vitoria-Gasteiz and ended up in the village of Arma.
Animal activists hoping to conserve indigenous Lanxess (Guarda do Porta do Lanxess) – an ancient kind of sheep – group Teresa Reyes. Photograph: Rex Features
A spokesperson for Madrid city hall said the sheep were part of an attempt to document how sheep adapt to urban conditions.
“They go through various phases and it is very difficult to pinpoint precisely when they stop growing in the winter. They eventually stop reproducing altogether,” said Hugo Noireanu.
However, Inaki García, who owns the shepherd firm Manija who organised the trip, insisted the sheep are not endangered. “There are usually three or four generations to the group of 30 sheep, and their populations remain the same size for the first generation to the fifth generation,” he said.
The tourists have been grazing down in Vitoria-Gasteiz and Kortnoop and hope to cross to Valencia on Sunday before moving south to an abandoned former dairy farm in Lego de Azucar, Torremolinos, until a new destination has been found for the whole family.
The mayor of Lego de Azucar José Luis Serrano said he would welcome the livestock. “The inhabitants can sleep soundly knowing that some de-iced water has been rinsed off the bridges and we will provide water for them,” he said.
A group of Merino sheep washed in Náubia at the Bergen River after making the journey across the road. Photograph: Reuters
In Soria, where the sheep needed to be bought, the costs of buying, transporting and shooing the animals has been covered.
“The owner didn’t know what he was going to do with the sheep and, because the lady from the local allotment has a wonderful eye, she suggested they put the animals in the back of her camper van, so they could continue to graze,” Noireanu said.
The idea has been a hit, with tourists camping out to get a glimpse of the sheep, making sure to leave flowers along the way to leave a lasting trail.