In the rugged landscapes of the Picos de Europa, among peaks of more than 2,000 meters, the shepherds of Onís keep a heroic livestock.
A life marked by the seasons
Historically, the people of the Picos de Europa have lived from livestock and agriculture. This high dependence on the natural resources of the environment favored the development of a perfected system of vertical transhumance, in order to take advantage of the pastures at different altitudes throughout the seasons.
In autumn and winter the shepherds kept their cattle grazing in the meadows of the lower areas around the villages and stabled them during the winter.
At the end of spring he would begin to move up with the cattle to the mid-altitude pastures, or low passes and, in summer, to the high passes.
In the pastures of the mountain passes, flat areas between summits, the pasture is very rich in the summer and milk production improves. Cabins were built there for the shepherds who spent the summer months living with their families.
Majadas still in use
The abrupt landscape of the Picos de Europa is dotted with meadows transformed by shepherds, the sheepfolds. They go to them in the summer, to take advantage of the pasture and to make the Gamonéu cheese.
This traditional and hard way of life is heroically maintained by some families of our shepherds, who keep and use their huts in sheepfolds such as Belbín, where even Gamonéu del Puerto is still produced.
Cabins, cuerrias and xateras
These plain areas, flatter and protected from the mountains, were used to build huts, with the limestone of the area and with hardly any interior distribution. The family stayed there and the Gamonéu cheeses were made and smoked.
In addition to the cabins, facilities were also built to shelter the livestock at night, such as the cuerriasenclosures without roofs, mainly for sheep and goats, or the beyares or xaterasto take care of calves.
In the past, life in the sheepfolds was lively, several families formed real villages, where there was no lack of entertainment, some of them even had a bowling alley.
Our most important MAJOR MAJORITIES
Ário, Las Bobias, Redondiella, Combeu, Mohandi, Vega Maor and Arnaedo.
Soñín de Arriba and de Abajo (in restoration project), Belbín (where Gamonéu del Puerto is still produced), Entrepeñas, Hozuela, La Solana, Vega Camplengo, Dubia, Covalierda, Espadañal, Braniella.
Lloroso Mountain Formation
La Beyuga, Espines, Brañarredonda, Parres and La Güelga.
The shepherds of Onís raise cows, mainly the Casina breed (Asturian from the mountains), which is very well adapted to the rigors of the climate. But traditionally the high altitude pastures have also been used by small livestock, the so-called “reciella”, with herds of sheep and goats. reciellaThe herds of sheep and goats, of vital importance to maintain the so-called tooth pastures, which are difficult to access for cows.
The milk from at least two of these three types of cattle is used to make Gamonéu cheese. Gamonéu cheese. This has been the historical way of conserving milk and obtaining a product to trade all year round.
The dog, faithful companion
Dogs have been companions and support for shepherds since time immemorial. Sheepdogs guard the flock, protect it from wolf attacks and keep the shepherd company on his lonely journey.
If you visit the Picos de Europa and see dogs running loose, it is very likely that they are shepherds and are guarding their flocks. Try to stay away and, of course, if you bring your dog with you, always keep it on a leash. Remember you and your dog are the intruders, he is on his turf and performing his function.