Once wide spread in the Alentejo, Garvonesas nearly became extinct and forgotten just twenty years ago. The story of this cattle breed is one of loss and success and much like many wild herbivores, it's closely entwined with the evolution of our customs and landscape.
A few months ago photographer and wildlife filmmaker Ricardo Guerreiro asked me to accompany him in his excursions to document the life of these domestic herbivores. The scenery that we find ourselves in each time we set out to photograph these animals shares many similarities with the African plains and their wild herds. Here too, as Ricardo himself puts it, "the conservation of these domestic autochthonous animals, on an extensive regime, allows for the maintenance of a balanced and rich ecosystem".

What started out as assisting a colleague in the field evolved to a continuous sense of marvel as I learned more about the cultural and natural heritage of Baixo Alentejo. By keeping this page regularly updated with Ricardo's ongoing work, I hope to further disclose the beauty and unpredictability of walking through the pastures of southern Portugal.
As a freelance photographer, Ricardo Guerreiro finds his work themes in the natural world and his pictures
have been published in books and magazines of the kind. Apart from his project in Baixo Alentejo, he recently
authored the book "Almada Nature Uncovered", a photographic journey about urban wildlife, and co-authored the
natural history film "Arrábida - da Serra ao Mar". To learn more about his work, visit his website.
In July 2013, Ricardo's story about the Garvonesa, a portuguese native cattle breed,
and the conservation project underway to prevent its extinction was published in National Geographic Portugal.
It's the Small Things
Nothing like heading to the field to take a short break from the countless days involved in editing a film. This time Ricardo wanted to concentrate on photographing Garvonesas at sunrise and sunset, getting specific behaviour shots and experimenting with long exposures at night. The weather however played a few tricks on us and we were forced to slightly deviate from our original plan.
To capture as much behaviour as possible, we headed to Santana da Serra everyday. There, a herd of dozens of
garvonesas roam the vast fields of "Herdade do Tacanho" with much freedom.
Pastures are completely dry this time of year and the cattle must be fed in order to survive these harsh conditions.
Every morning the ranchers distribute 200 Kg of nutritious supplements leading the cows to gather up. This made up for a
great opportunity to get closer to them, as in other occasions they are generally more wary of our presence.
On our second day, we only had a few sunny intervals to work with. After spending a whole morning photographing
garvonesas in the rain, we started paying atention to the smaller creatures that inhabit the fields. This wolf spider
with hundreds of spiderlings on its abdomen brightened up our day.
As we started getting ready for our night shooting, we faced our first and highly unexpected technical problem.
Out of the blue, our car wouldn't start. Needless to say we never left it parked uphill again.
At dusk we ran a few exposure tests and as garvonesas were nowhere to be seen at that time, I volunteered as a model.
A few hours later we found the majority of the herd and managed to photograph them under the starry night sky.
On our last morning and since it had been raining for a few days, Ricardo and I set out on a different quest. A nearby
cork oak forest seemed to be the perfect place to find the varied species of fungi that start sprouting everywhere
in autumn. But after an hour of looking down at the wet soil only to find one or two tiny mushrooms, we decided
to photograph a beautiful carpet of moss growing on a broken branch instead. (photo by Ricardo Guerreiro)
First Impressions
I first joined Ricardo in June to give him a hand on location and to also photograph him in action. A photographer can always use a few shots of him or herself at work for promotional purposes and I took it as a challenge to guarantee that he had plenty to chose from. To simplify getting closer to Ricardo's subject we headed to São Martinho das Amoreiras, where Manuel Domingos and his wife Emília rear a small herd of half a dozen animals.
To help him with his herd, Manuel Domingos counts on the dedication of a troop of herding dogs. I was amazed at
how well they understand Manuel's wills and how specific these can be. The sounds that Manuel makes while speaking
to them and the cows are traditional among the region's shepherds and are as intriguing as they are impossible to repeat. 
Hope to upload a sample soon to prove my point!
These few days went by fast and we were both pleased with the results. After one last day of chasing garvonesas,
we started our journey back to Lisboa, only to stop just in time to see the sun setting over the Alentejo, a sight I hope
to enjoy many more times in the years to come.

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