Karakachian sheep

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Karakachan sheep (Ovis aries)

The Karakachan sheep is a primitive Bulgarian breed of sheep, intended for wool, milk and meat production.



In Bulgarian lands, images of sheep and rams have been found on ceramic items from the time of the flourishing of Thracian civilization. Their markings are similar to today's Karakachan sheep. The Karakachan sheep is the result of the folk selection of the nomadic shepherds - mainly Karakachans, but also Arumans and Yuruqs. This is one of the oldest breeds on the Balkan Peninsula. For centuries, the population that bred these sheep migrated in winter to Western Thrace, Aegean Macedonia or to Strandzha, leaving the summer pastures in Stara Planina or other mountains. The Karakachans traveled with their herds and with caravans of Karakachan horses loaded with pieces of Balkan yellow cheese, white brine cheese and sacks of wool, all products of Karakachan sheep. After the forced settlement of the Karakachans from Bulgaria in the cities and the imposed prohibition on them crossing the border with Greece, some of the sheep were slaughtered, and the rest were crossed with different breeds of sheep in the nationalized farms. Crossbreeding was mostly with Tsigay. According to the FAO classification, the breed is declared rare, threatened with extinction. In 1972, a system was developed to preserve the breed, and the animals were mainly housed in scientific institutes and state farms. Their number in each of them did not exceed 200-500 animals.



The representatives of the Karakachan sheep breed are kept in mountainous and semi-mountainous settlements of Bulgaria. The breed is very rare. It is also found in neighboring countries - North Macedonia and Greece, but there it has the status of an endangered breed, too. The actual number of typical representatives of the breed in Bulgaria was 550 animals in 2008.



The Karakachan sheep withstand adverse conditions. They are not demanding on food, fodder and terrain conditions and are adapted for long treks through rough terrains. They have excellent resistance to climatic conditions and diseases. They are well built and have lively temperament.

Sheep are mostly black in color, but white are also found. They have coarse wool, which in one year grows by 25-40 cm. This construction of the fleece allows the water to drain quickly during the frequent rains in the mountains, thus keeping the animal's body dry. This wool has exceptional properties for making waddles and household items of naturally colored wool. Its construction is unique – quite underdeveloped core, which makes it extremely strong - a property not possessed by the other known breeds with carpet type wool in the world.

The Karakachan sheep is a small, down-to-earth sheep with a strong bone system and hard hooves. The live weight of sheep is 25-35 kg, and of rams - 35-55 kg. Male animals have long, strong, spirally curved horns. Sheep are hornless, but horned are also found. The profile line of the head is slightly curved. The head and front legs are bare. The mucous membrane around the eyes and the nose is black. The chest and thorax are shallow and narrow. The legs are strong and thin. The tail is short and reaches just above the hocks. This is an advantage in the passages made by animals.

Fertility is not high and twinning is a rare phenomenon in Karakachan sheep. Lambs are born small with a low live weight, but are extremely lively and grow intensively in the first month. This is due to the good milk yield and excellent maternal qualities of the sheep that gave birth to them.