2020-01-05 About Katun – summer pasture farm in western Balkan. The following text taken from the website ”Katunroads” developed through the project ”Rural Tourism for Economic Development of Cross-border Area of Montenegro and Kosovo” – a project funded by European Union’s IPA CBC Montenegro and Kosovo programme.
Transhumance through temporary farmer settlements in the mountain area of western Balkan are termed as katuns in Montenegro and Kosovo. Herders here still move their livestock to graze in the summer. The tradition of herders moving high into the mountains is a long one, and the nomadic way of life has throughout history developed a special culture and customs unique only to the katuns. At the present time this moving of livestock to katuns is practiced less and less each year, but this tradition is still maintained.
Katuns were first mentioned in historical documents sometimes in XII century, but archaeological sites found high in Dinara mountains testify that the herders lived there since the time when man-hunter became the man-breeder of livestock, and livestock movement toward the mountains in various periods of history has not been interrupted neither by Roman, nor Slavic, nor Venetian, nor Turkish, nor any other colonization.
Katun huts were constructed near each other. This was primarily done as a defense mechanism, so that herders could defend better together, from people and from wild animals. There is usually no need to herd the cows, you just let them go in the morning and they return on their own before night. Sheep, on the other hand, must be followed, because there is always the possibility that they will be attacked by the wolves and other wild animals. Cows are kept mainly for milk, while the sheep are kept and for milk and for nowadays the tradition of going to summer pastures being less and less practiced each year, and less and less farmers are present in the mountains. However, maintaining this tradition is extremely important, not only from a cultural point of view, but also for many other reasons. The ancestors knew how to take full advantage of the mountain, to use it for their economic prosperity but not to devastate it, while today when options are far greater we have still not found a way to valorize the mountains in a sustainable manner. It is necessary to make efforts to support the cattle breeding in katuns, and encourage continuation of existence of katuns as authentic settlements. It is important to make young people see cattle breeding and katuns as profitable business, so that they may decide to continue the centuries-old traditions of their ancestors.
FSF comment on this post; In our view of the Swedish pastoralists it´s fascinating and thought provoking how similar this original pasture has developed and taken shape in different parts of Europe. We´ve previously come to know something about transhumance in the Alps, and now we can share a very similar transhumance cultural heritage even in the mountain of Dinarides in western Balkan.
In the Scandinavian mountains we share our northern transhumance cultural heritage with our friends in Norway. In essence, there are also corresponding values within the mountain agriculture in northern Scandinavia. Despite the northern location so can we on the Scandinavian peninsula move the herds of cows, sheep and/or goats to summer farms at ”Fäbodar” (se) or ”Setrer” (no) into the forests and up in the mountains between May or June to the autumn, usually September or even beginning of October. The reason for this relatively long grazing period at these latitudes is the influence of the Gulf Stream which, since the last ice age, has brought warmer water north in the Atlantic.
Even though we have not yet visited any of the katuns we can say through the presentation on the website above that it seems almost surprising similar in term of customs, the way of adaption to the natural conditions and traditional buildings of coniferous timber and dry stone constructions. We too can relate to colonization in the north, as well as of course todays societal challenges with successive decrease in number of practitioners and a shortage of youth. But we really can too feel with the deep emotions for the historical way of living close to nature and the ancestral culture, the challenges of producing storeable foods of the milk, and the harsh reality with the free-grazing cattle – not least the risks of predators. But – all this may well have it´s historical links and explanations…
Also in Scandinavia livestock management has roots from Stone Age and with a more basic societal development since the Bronze Age. These culture development periods occurred in different times in southern and northern Europe but in Scandinavia livestock management was established and began to spread about six thousand years ago (4000 BC). Actual transhumance probably gradually developed with population increase and the system of summer farms certainly during the Iron Age. In some locations possibly earlier. Based on this, we can understand the cultural friendship across Europe from the development of the modern man and into our present societes. And of course, the earliest immigration and expansion north since the ice age of hunter-gatherer as well as following farmers and herdsmen also means we have more or less common ancestors and same genetic roots. This also give an explaination to our similar customs, common cultural expressions and features in traditional farming, as extensive grazing regimes in livestock management. We also now share the need to understand and develop the mechanisms to preserve for future this valuable common but vulnerable remaining cultural heritage with the associated traditional knowledge in widely different parts of Europe.
2019-12-11 Transhumance in the Mediterranean and in the Alps wins UNESCO status. Read more here
2019-11-23 New book: Fäbod and seter Summer farming on the Scandinavian peninsula. Read more here