What Is Pastoralism AP World History?

Pastoralism is a way of life that revolves around the domestication and herding of animals, primarily for subsistence purposes. This practice has been a crucial part of human civilization for thousands of years, and has played a significant role in shaping the history and culture of many societies around the world. In this article, we will explore what pastoralism is, its historical significance, and how it has evolved over time.

What is Pastoralism?

Pastoralism is an agricultural practice that involves raising livestock such as goats, sheep, cattle, or camels on natural pastures or rangelands. It is an alternative to intensive agriculture where crops are cultivated on farms. Pastoralists move their herds from one grazing area to another depending on the season and availability of resources.

Historical Significance

Pastoralism was one of the earliest forms of agriculture practiced by humans. Evidence shows that pastoralism began in the Middle East around 10,000 BCE when people started to domesticate animals for food and clothing. It was also prevalent in other parts of the world like Africa, Central Asia, and South America.

The practice of pastoralism had a significant impact on human society. It allowed people to settle down in one place instead of being nomadic hunter-gatherers. It also led to the development of trade routes as pastoralists would travel long distances to exchange goods with other communities.

Types of Pastoralism

There are two types of pastoralism: nomadic pastoralism and transhumant pastoralism.

Nomadic pastoralists move their herds from one place to another in search of better grazing areas or water sources. They have no permanent settlement and live in tents or temporary structures made from local materials like mud or grass. Nomadic pastoralists are common in arid regions like deserts or steppes.

Transhumant pastoralists, on the other hand, move their herds between fixed seasonal grazing areas. They have a permanent settlement and move their herds seasonally to take advantage of different grazing areas. Transhumant pastoralists are common in mountainous regions where different elevations offer different grazing opportunities.

Challenges Faced by Pastoralists

Pastoralism is facing many challenges in the modern world. Climate change, overgrazing, and conflict with settled communities are major challenges that pastoralists face around the world. In many parts of the world, pastoralism is seen as an outdated and inefficient way of life that should be replaced by modern agriculture.


In conclusion, pastoralism is an ancient agricultural practice that has been an important part of human civilization for thousands of years. It has allowed people to survive in harsh environments and has contributed to the development of trade routes and cultural exchange. Despite the challenges faced by pastoralists in the modern world, it continues to be an important part of many societies around the world.