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Salto del Pastor: A Traditional Canary Island Practice

Salto del Pastor: A Traditional Canary Island Practice
Salto del Pastor: A Traditional Canary Island Practice

The Salto del Pastor is a traditional practice from the Canary Islands, deeply rooted in the history and culture of the region. This unique activity, which translates to "Shepherd's Leap," involves using a long wooden pole to traverse the rugged and often steep terrain of the islands. The origins of this practice date back centuries and were primarily used by shepherds to navigate the challenging landscapes while tending to their flocks.

Historical Background

Origins of Salto del Pastor

The origins of Salto del Pastor can be traced back to the indigenous Guanche people, who inhabited the Canary Islands before the Spanish conquest in the 15th century. The Guanches developed this technique as a practical solution to move across the volcanic terrain, which is characterized by steep slopes, deep ravines, and rocky outcrops. The wooden pole, known as a "garrote," provided the necessary support and balance for shepherds to leap from one point to another safely.

Evolution Over Time

Over the centuries, the practice of Salto del Pastor has evolved, but its core principles remain the same. The garrote has been refined, with modern versions made from durable materials such as chestnut or eucalyptus wood. Additionally, the technique has been passed down through generations, preserving its cultural significance and ensuring its survival in contemporary times.

The Technique of Salto del Pastor

The Garrote

The garrote is the essential tool for performing Salto del Pastor. It typically measures between 2.5 to 4 meters in length, depending on the height and preference of the user. The pole is tapered at one end, allowing it to be firmly planted into the ground. The other end is often fitted with a metal spike, known as a "regatón," which provides additional grip and stability on rocky surfaces.

Basic Movements

The technique of Salto del Pastor involves a series of coordinated movements that require strength, agility, and balance. The basic steps include:

  • Planting the Garrote: The shepherd firmly plants the garrote into the ground at an angle, ensuring it is secure.

  • Leaping: Using the garrote as a pivot, the shepherd leaps forward, using their body weight to propel themselves across the terrain.

  • Landing: The shepherd lands on the opposite side, using the garrote to maintain balance and stability.

Advanced Techniques

Experienced practitioners of Salto del Pastor often incorporate advanced techniques to navigate more challenging landscapes. These techniques may include:

  • Pole Vaulting: Using the garrote to vault over obstacles such as rocks or small ravines.

  • Descending Slopes: Carefully planting the garrote to control the descent down steep slopes.

  • Crossing Streams: Utilizing the garrote to balance and leap across narrow streams or water bodies.

Cultural Significance

Preservation of Tradition

Salto del Pastor is not merely a practical technique; it is a living tradition that reflects the cultural heritage of the Canary Islands. Efforts to preserve this practice have been undertaken by various organizations and communities. Festivals and competitions are held regularly, showcasing the skills of practitioners and promoting awareness of this unique tradition.

Modern Adaptations

In recent years, Salto del Pastor has gained popularity beyond its traditional context. Adventure enthusiasts and tourists visiting the Canary Islands often seek to learn and experience this ancient practice. Guided tours and workshops are available, providing an opportunity for visitors to engage with the local culture and history.

Environmental Impact

Sustainable Practices

The practice of Salto del Pastor is inherently sustainable, as it relies on natural materials and human skill rather than modern technology. The use of wooden garrotes, sourced from local trees, ensures minimal environmental impact. Additionally, the technique promotes a deep connection with the natural landscape, fostering a sense of respect and stewardship for the environment.

Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts are crucial to preserving the natural habitats that support the practice of Salto del Pastor. Organizations and local communities work together to protect the unique ecosystems of the Canary Islands, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy and benefit from this traditional practice.


Salto del Pastor is a remarkable example of how traditional practices can endure and adapt over time. Its rich history, cultural significance, and sustainable nature make it a valuable heritage of the Canary Islands. Whether as a practical technique for navigating rugged terrain or as a symbol of cultural identity, Salto del Pastor continues to captivate and inspire those who encounter it.


What is the origin of Salto del Pastor?

Salto del Pastor originated with the indigenous Guanche people of the Canary Islands. It was developed as a practical technique for navigating the region's challenging volcanic terrain.

What is Salto del Pastor?

Salto del Pastor, also known as the Shepherd's Leap, is a traditional sport and technique used in the Canary Islands, particularly on the islands of Tenerife and La Palma. It involves using a long pole, known as a "garrote" or "shepherd's pole," for balance and propulsion while traversing steep and rugged terrains.

How is Salto del Pastor practiced?

Salto del Pastor is practiced by skilled individuals who are able to navigate difficult landscapes using the shepherd's pole. The practitioner holds the pole vertically and uses it to propel themselves forward, maintain balance, and assist in descending or ascending slopes. The technique requires strength, agility, and a deep understanding of the terrain.

What is the history of Salto del Pastor?

Salto del Pastor has its roots in the agricultural and pastoral traditions of the Canary Islands. It was developed as a means for shepherds to navigate the volcanic landscapes and move their livestock safely. Over time, it evolved into a cultural practice and a recognized sport, showcasing the unique skills and heritage of the Canary Islands.

Is Salto del Pastor dangerous?

Like any physical activity, there is a certain level of risk involved in practicing Salto del Pastor. It requires a good level of physical fitness, proper training, and an understanding of the technique to minimize the risk of injury. It is important to receive proper instruction and guidance from experienced practitioners before attempting Salto del Pastor.

Can anyone learn Salto del Pastor?

While Salto del Pastor requires physical strength and coordination, with proper training and practice, most individuals can learn the basics of the technique. It is recommended to start under the guidance of experienced instructors who can provide appropriate instruction and ensure safety. As with any skill, proficiency in Salto del Pastor comes with time, dedication, and practice.


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