For livestock production in the Romanian Carpathians, transhumance is a common strategy for overcoming temporal and spatial shortages in fodder and forage. Two main forms of transhumance occur and can be differentiated both by distances travelled and the degree of orientation towards production for the market. Long-distance transhumance of large sheep fl ocks owned by individuals occurs between mountain pastures in the summer and lowland pastures in the winter, and only developed in two main locations due to a specifi c combination of political, geographical and economic factors. The loss of protected markets since the end of communism in 1989 has precipitated the decline of long-distance transhumance. However, pendulation (the Romanian idiom for short-distance transhumance) is still a common phenomenon because it remains a necessity for mountain households to continue to produce food for their own table. Pastoral systems typifi ed by smallholding-based production and the pendulation of livestock are conserving considerable areas of semi-natural grasslands in the Romanian Carpathians. This article questions whether recently implemented rural development measures targeting the conservation of semi-natural grasslands will be suffi cient to support the continuation of pastoral systems characterized by pendulation in the face of changing social and economic contexts.