Carpathian transhumance, element of traditional pastoralism

“Developing safeguarding plans for intangible cultural heritage in Greece”
Oina Game in Romania
Carpathian transhumance, element of traditional pastoralism
Domain: Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe
Element inscribed on the National ICH Registry of Romania


Transhumance is a temporary displacement, both in altitude and latitude, of the sheep flocks according to the availability of resources. It is an advanced phase of the development of sheep herding, that appeared to effectively use the pastures and hayfields situated a great distance from the shepherds’ village of residence. As a fundamental and traditional occupation of the Romanian people, transhumant pastoralism developed in complementarity with local and pendulatory pastoralism. According to historical documents, transhumance was practiced since in the 14th and 15th centuries and especially by Transylvanian shepherds. Started as an economic process determined by unprecedented extension of livestock, lack of winter fodder resources, and the local and regional development of markets with specific products and by-products, transhumance became a true cultural, social, demographic and ecological phenomenon, that determined the exploitation of new pasturing sites, the exchange of cultural information between individuals and communities, the emergence of new commercial roads and localities. The most active and important communities of transhumant shepherds are located in areas where transhumance was practiced traditionally since centuries ago, i.e. in the Southern and Eastern Carpathians. The practice of transhumance in Romania encouraged the creation and transmission of pastoral knowledge and practices from one generation to the next. This includes knowledge about mountain pathways, folk knowledge of local flora and fauna, the agricultural and pastoral calendar (combining occupational, folkloric and Christian elements), folk meteorology and astronomy, traditional empirical veterinary medicine, traditional cooking of sheepfold products, associated handicrafts, pastoral clothing, specific musical instruments, vernacular architecture. Romanian transhumance thus created the background for the performance of certain rituals, ceremonies, and social events, among which the most important ones are the pastoral holidays. Through creating strong social ties between practitioners and particular socio-professional groups, transhumance strengthened local, regional, and national identity.