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Sheep take over Madrid's streets as they head for winter pastures

MADRID, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Sheep replaced cars on the streets of Madrid on Sunday, as shepherds following ancient herding routes led their flocks through the centre of the Spanish capital to southerly pastures for winter grazing.

Locals and tourists lined the route and watched as thousands of sheep walked through the city, the bells around their necks providing a noisy soundtrack.

The annual event was revived in 1994 as part of Madrid's annual Fiesta de la Trashumancia, after the Spanish parliament recognised the traditional routes shepherds used to herd their livestock.

Just a few centuries ago, the route would have taken them through quiet countryside, but today it sees them traverse some of the busiest areas of the city, including the Plaza Mayor, Madrid's main square.

Onlookers took pictures and videos on their phones, while some children held out tentative hands to stroke the sheep.

Many people were surprised by the unexpected sight in a city usually thronged with traffic.

"It was crazy that there were so many sheep, I've never seen anything like it. It was a great way to learn about Spanish history and Spanish culture," English teacher Maria Kouriabalis, a 22-year-old American who has been living in Madrid for a month, told Reuters. (Reporting by Michael Gore; Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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