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(mā`stä), association of Spanish sheep farmers, formed to regulate sheep raising and to prevent cultivation of pastureland. Its date of origin is uncertain, but by 1273 Alfonso X of Castile formally recognized its long-established privileges, which were confirmed and extended by his successors. The mesta gradually escaped local jurisdiction and came under direct supervision of the crown. It prospered, especially in the 15th and 16th cent., by exporting wool from its highly prized Merino sheepMerino sheep
, breed intermediate in body size having fine wool, developed in Spain. These sheep are noted for their hardiness and their herding instincts and have been used as parents of several other breeds, notably the Rambouillet of France. Three strains have been developed.
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. The mesta yielded large revenues to the crown, but its monopoly of large areas of land exhausted the soil and contributed to the economic decline of Spain by preventing intensive agriculture. Attacked by reforming ministers in the 18th cent., it was not abolished until 1837.



(Nestos), a river in Bulgaria and Greece. In Bulgaria the river is called the Mesta; in Greece, the Nestos.

The Mesta is 273 km long and drains an area of 7,500 sq km. It originates in the Rila Mountains. Within Bulgaria (126 km) it flows through a deep valley bounded by the spurs of the Pirin (in the southwest) and Rhodope (in the northeast) mountains. In Greece, the river cuts through hills and low mountains and flows into the Aegean Sea, forming a delta. In its upper and middle courses, the Mesta basin is fed by snow and rain, with high water occurring in May and June; in its lower course it is fed predominantly by rain, with maximum water discharge in winter. The mean annual flow rate near the border of Bulgaria and Greece is 32 cu m per sec. The river is used for irrigation.



an organization of large sheep raisers, most of whom were feudal lords, in Spain from the 13th to the 19th century. It arose in 1273 in Castile and enjoyed royal privileges. Large flocks of sheep belonging to members of the Mesta were driven in the fall from the northern part of the country to southern pastures; in the spring they were driven back along special roads (canadas), built across tilled fields, meadows, and vineyards. The Mesta acquired the rights to cut down forests that were in the path of the flocks’ movement and to use the pastures of the town and rural communities that they passed. The peasants were forbidden to erect fences to protect their fields.

In the late 15th and 16th centuries, in connection with the increase in the export of wool from Spain to other Western European countries, the Mesta’s pastures were extended by royal decrees at the expense of arable land; lands leased in perpetuity were allotted to the Mesta’s members.

The Mesta’s activity, which resulted in the growth of stock breeding to the detriment of other branches of agriculture, was one of the causes for the general decline of Spanish agriculture in the 16th century. In the second half of the 18th century the Mesta’s privileges were limited and later abolished. The organization itself existed until 1836.


Mitskun, N. I. “O roli Mesty v istorii Ispanii XVIII v.” Voprosy istorii, 1963, no. 8.
Klein, J. The Mesta. Cambridge, 1920.
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