Video: The Shepherd’s Leap

Think you’re a dab hand with your walking poles? You’ve got nothing on the shepherds of the Canary Islands. Using a long wooden lance tipped with metal, Canarian shepherds have launched themselves down the uneven terrain and rocky cliffs of the Spanish archipelago since the early 15th century.

Historians believe that salto del pastor, or the shepherd’s leap, originated with the Guanches, the original inhabitants of the islands before they were conquered by Spain. The shepherds would use their lances to pole-vault across gulleys and to “dead drop” down steep cliffs or into ravines. The dead drop involves jumping into the air and shoving the tip of the lance into the hillside below before sliding down the pole to cushion the fall.

From work tool to folk sport

More recently, the practice has become a folk sport, kept alive by a small but committed local community. In the video below, local man Juan Pedro Rodriguez introduces the tradition and explains its importance to Canarians.

“It’s all about being able to move through rugged landscapes. The lance is your companion, it gives you support…it’s important not for me to keep the shepherd’s leap tradition alive, I would like to pass it on to my children and grandchildren,” Rodriguez explains.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.