is a form of agriculture
seasonally or continuously in order to find fresh pastures
on which to graze
herded livestock may include cattle
, or mixtures of species. Nomadic pastoralism
is commonly practised in regions with little arable land
, typically in the developing world
. Of the estimated 30–40
million nomadic pastoralists worldwide, most are found in central Asia
and the Sahel
region of West Africa. Increasing numbers of stock may lead to
of the area and desertification
if lands are not allowed to
fully recover between one grazing period and the next. Increased
and fencing of land has reduced
the amount of land available for this practice.
Nomadic pastoralism was a result of the Neolithic Revolution
. During the
revolution, humans began domesticating
animals and plants for food
and started forming cities. Nomadism generally has existed in
symbiosis with such settled cultures trading animal products (meat,
hides, wool, cheeses and other animal products) for manufactured
items not produced by the nomadic herders.
Historically nomadic herder lifestyles has led to warrior-based
cultures, that have made them fearsome enemies of settled people.
Tribal confederations built by charismatic nomadic leaders have
sometimes held sway over huge areas as incipient state structures,
whose stability is dependent upon the distribution of taxes,
tribute and plunder taken from settled populations.
In the past it was asserted that Pastoral nomads left no presence
archaeologically but this has now been challenged. Pastoral nomadic
sites are identified based on their location outside the zone of
agriculture, the absence of grains or grain-processing equipment,
limited and characteristic architecture, a predominance of sheep
and goat bones, and by ethnographic
to modern pastoral nomadic peoples Juris Zahrins has
proposed that pastoral nomadism began as a cultural lifestyle in
the wake of the 6200 BC climatic crisis when Harifian
huntergatherers fused with PPNB
agriculturalists to produce a nomadic lifestyle
based on animal domestication
developing a Circum Arabian nomadic pastoral complex, and spreading
Often traditional nomadic
groups settle into a
regular seasonal pattern, which has been described by some anthropologists
as a form of transhumance. An
example of a normal nomadic cycle in the northern hemisphere is:
- Spring (early April to the end of June) — transition
- Summer (end of June to late September) — a higher plateau
- Autumn (mid-September to end of November) — transition
- Winter (from December to the end of March) — desert plains
The movements in this example are about 180 to 200 km. Camps
are established in the same place each year; often semi-permanent
shelters are built in at least one place on this migration
In subtropical regions such as Chad, the nomadic pastoralist cycle
is as follows:
- In the rainy season, the groups live in a village intended for
a comfortable stay. The villages are often made of sturdy material
as clay. Old men and women remain in this village when the other
people move the herds in the dry season.
- In the dry season, the people move their herds to southern
villages with a more temporary character. They then move inland,
where they stay in tent camps.
In Chad, the sturdy villages are called hillé, the less sturdy
villages are called dankhout and the tents ferik.
By contrast, pastoral nomads follow a seasonal migratory pattern
which varies from year to year depending on grazing needs. Such
nomadic societies create no permanent settlements, but live in
tents or other movable dwellings the year round. Pastoralist nomads
are often self-sufficient, producing their own food, shelter and
Nomadic pastoralism around the world
Nomadic pastoralism was historically widespread throughout less
fertile regions of Earth
. It is found in areas
of low rainfall
such as the Arabian Peninsula
inhabited by Bedouins
inhabited by Somalis
transhumance is also common in areas of harsh climate, such as
Northern Europe and Russia inhabited by
the indigenous Sami people, Nenets people and Chukchis.
There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world.
Seminomadic pastoralists and pastoral nomads
form a significant but declining minority in such countries as
Arabia (probably less than 3%), Iran (4%), and
Afghanistan (at most 10%). They comprise less
than 2% of the population in the countries of North Africa except Libya and Mauritania.
Mongols in what is now Mongolia, Russia and China, and the
Tatars or Turkic
people of Eastern Europe and
Central Asia were nomadic peoples who
practised nomadic transhumance on harsh Asian steppes.
Some remnants of these populations
are nomadic to this day. In Mongolia, about 40% of the population
continues to live traditional nomadic lifestyle.
Middle Hills and Himalaya of Nepal, people
living above about 2,000 meters practice transhumance and nomadic pastoralism because
settled agriculture becomes less productive due to steep slopes,
cooler temperatures and limited irrigation possibilities.
between summer and winter pasture may be short, for example in the
vicinity of Pokhara where a
valley at about 800 meters elevation is less than 20 km. from
alpine pastures just below the Annapurna Himalaya, or distances may be 100 km or
more. For example in Rapti zone some 100 km west of Pokhara the Kham Magar move their herds between winter
pastures just north of India and summer pastures on the southern
slopes of Dhaulagiri Himalaya.
In far western Nepal, ethnic
Tibetans living in Dolpo and other valleys north among the high
Himalaya moved their herds north to winter on the plains of the
proper, until this practice was
prohibited after China took over Tibet
nomadic Sami people, an indigenous
people of northern Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the
Peninsula of Russia, practise a
form of nomadic transhumance based on reindeer.
In the 14th and 15th century, when
reindeer population was sufficiently reduced that Sami could not
subsist on hunting alone, some Sami, organized along family lines,
became reindeer herders. Each family has traditional territories on
which they herd, arriving at roughly the same time each season.
Only a small fraction of Sami have subsisted on reindeer herding
over the past century; as the most colorful part of the population,
they are well known. But as elsewhere in Europe, transhumance is
was an association of sheep owners
and religious orders
) that had an important
economic and political role in Medieval Castile
. To preserve the
rights of way
transhumant herds through cañada
Mesta acted against small peasants.
In Chad, nomadic pastoralists include the Zagawa
, and Mimi