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The Spanish Merino, a common breed, was surveyed for the purpose of comparison with other Mediterranean breeds. Spanish sheep can be classified into three types (a) Merino, (b) coarse-fleeced, and (c) crosses between these two (entrefino). The Merino was originally divided into stationary flocks and the more slender and longer-legged migratory sheep (Fig. 8c). As transhumance declines, flocks that were originally migratory are now becoming stationary, and at least one of the three flocks seen near Merida in Extremadura (Fig. 1) had originally been migratory.

The Spanish Merino, although bred in the past for wool, has in more recent times been a triple-purpose sheep, and it is of immense historical interest as being the ancestor of all other Merinos throughout the world. It should therefore not be allowed to die out eventually as a result of the crossing that is now taking place with improved Merinos.

Analysis of fleece samples. Although variable, the wool in the ten samples taken was at least 70s quality. The mean fibre diameters ranged from 18.1 to 24.4 μm with a mean of 21.3. The modes ranged from 18 to 24 μm in diameter with a mean of 20.8, indicating slightly skewed distributions. The mean staple length was 44 mm (October). Four of the animals were also skin-sampled, and the S/P follicle ratio ranged from 9.0 to 12.8 with a mean of 10.5.



This non-migratory breed, a milking variety of the semi-fine wooled Bordaleiro, is found in two districts near Lisbon (Fig. 1). Saloia sheep are kept permanently at enclosed pasture, commonly in flocks of about 250 head, tended by a hired shepherd-milker. The traditional husbandry of family-managed flocks of 30–40 sheep has almost disappeared. Today, owners typically earn most of their income from business or the professions, with sheep-raising as a part-time activity. Saloia sheep are well adapted to the local environment, and are not crossed with other breeds.

Description. The Saloia is classified by MASON (1967) as intermediate between the fine-wooled Merino and the coarse-wooled Churro. The Castilian breed may also be in its ancestry. However, the physical appearance of the Saloia clearly shows Merino influence (Fig. 8c). Visible characteristics noted during the survey were as described by MASON, except that some of the purebred ewes seen at Azeitao were horned. Ram lambs that are born without horns are butchered while immature, for it is said in Azeitão that “a ram without horns is like a garden without flowers.”

Analysis of fleece samples. MASON (1967) quoted a quality number of around 60s for the breed, with a staple length of about 100 mm, and a diameter of 20–30 μm. The three fleece samples taken in the present study (July, 1975) had staple lengths of 42 mm, and were clearly of Merino type. The quality number assessed on diameter was 60s, but the high crimp number of 16 per in (6 per cm) is normally associated with a quality of 70s. The overall diameter range was 18 to 50 μm, the average of the mean diameters was 29,5 μm, and the mean mode was 26.7 μm. These figures are higher than expected for a Merino type, and only one sample had a symmetrical diameter distribution, being identified as a short wool. The other two had skewed to fine distributions, and so were generalized medium wools. There were no medullated or pigmented fibres.

Performance. Ewes give 70–80 kg of milk in 200–210 days. Milk (for cheese) accounts for 70 percent of the annual income derived from the breed (O.C.D.E., 1970). The return for Saloia wool has declined from 15 percent of income in 1960 to 7 percent in 1975, and the value of lambs (sold for butchering from 3 to 4 weeks after birth) has increased from 15 percent to 23 percent in the same period. Ewes lamb once per year beginning at 24 months of age. The lambing rate was reported to be 112 percent.

Status. With a breed population estimated at 20 000, the Saloia is not threatened at present, although numbers have greatly declined in recent years (INSTITUTO NACIONAL DE ESTATISTICA, 1955, 1965, 1972). A decade ago there were some 60 000 (MASON, 1967). Also, there are far fewer holdings than previously (DA SILVA PORTUGAL et al., 1974). The survey recorded a total of seven owners in an area (Azeitão) where there had been 42 owners in 1960. A striking factor in the decline of the Saloia has been the loss of grazing land to residential and industrial sites which have spread beyond Lisbon well into the country-side. The new industries not only reduce the area available for grazing, but also attract workers who formerly would tend sheep for a living.


The raza roja levantina (common local names are Sudat and Guirra) is found near the coast in the Spanish provinces of Alicante, Valencia, and Castellón de la Plana (Fig. 1). The early history of the breed is not known, but according to SANCHEZ BELDA (1976a), the Levant Red developed from crossings of the Manchega with thin-tailed North African breeds (the Algerian Arab and the medium-wooled Beni Ahsen) brought to the Mediterranean coast of eastern Spain (the “Levant”). SANCHEZ BELDA identifies two varieties of Levant Red: the guirra fina in the coastal mountains, a type smaller and more robust than the guirra basta of the littoral. Management is semi-extensive. The sheep, tended by a shepherd owner, during the day graze in open places on maquis brushland. The flock is returned to its stall for the night.

Description. In the course of the survey, Levant Red were observed in the three provinces where they are bred. Withers height for rams ranged from 78 to 82 cm, and for ewes, from 70 to 75 cm. Except for about 5 percent which were black, the colour of the fleece of the animals seen varied from reddish-brown to yellow-white. The colour of new-born lambs is a rich, dark reddish-brown, but as the animals age, the coat gradually lightens, becoming, at full maturity, a dirty cream colour. Sheep with white coats are not considered pure Levant Red, nor are those that do not have reddish-brown legs. (“Guirra” is the word for “reddish” in the Valencian dialect; “sudat” means “greasy”, in reference to the oily condition of the uncleaned wool). The bridge of the nose is convexly curved, more strongly in rams than with ewes (Fig. 8d). The tail is thin and of medium length. Both sexes are without horns.

Analysis of fleece samples. SANCHEZ BELDA (1976a) classifies the wool as medium fine (entrefina). Of the five fleece samples taken in the survey, one animal had wool of almost Merino fineness, ranging in diameter from 16 to 36 μm, with a mean of 24.6 μm and a mode of 27 μm. But its S/P ratio was only 5.7, lower than expected even for a Merino cross. The remaining four fleece samples had hairy fibres (mean percentage of medullated fibre 14.25 percent) in addition to the bulk of the coat, which ranged up to 50 μm in diameter. The mode of each was 24 μm, but the means ranged from 27.3 to 34.8 μm, with an overall mean of 31 μm. The mean S/P ratio in the skin was 5.4:1. By the classification of RYDER (1969), these are hairy medium wools.

Performance. Although Levant Red ewes are good milkers, production is almost entirely for meat. The main market is for cordero pascual, i.e. Easter lamb, butchered 4 to 5 months after birth at 30–35 kg. Reproduction: twins are common, and triplets are not rare. The lambing rate reported during the survey was 150–180 percent. However, SANCHEZ BELDA (1976a) gives the rate of 125 for the better-managed flocks. Ewes are in oestrus twice a year, but usually lamb once a year. Conception rate was reported to be 95–97 percent.

Adaptation. Levant Red are of strong constitution, adapted to high summer temperatures and to long daily marches in search of grazing. Frugal in feed requirements, the sheep appear to thrive in the areas of poor, degraded vegetation common to the region. The breed is exceptionally docile and does not readily show fright. Veterinarians in the survery areas reported that the Levant Red is remarkably free of disease.

Status. The Levant Red is endangered. At the time of the survey (October, 1974) breed population data were generously provided by Dr. SANCHEZ BELDA in a personal communication. On the basis of these data modified by field findings, the total number of mature purebred animals was 1 336, geographically distributed as follows (Fig.1). Alicante: 397 Levant Red in six localities within a few kilometres of the shore. This northern section of the Costa Blanca is rapidly being transformed into a multi-storied resort area. The open, uncultivated coastal areas, in which the sheep have traditionally grazed, are disappearing as increasingly more land is developed to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of tourists that come to this part of Spain each year. Valencia: 844 head in six Municipios including Játiva, about 25 km inland from the Costa del Azahar. In this area, sheep raising has declined as production and profits from horticulture (vine, citrus, fresh vegetables) have substantially increased. Castellón de la Plana: all of the 95 pure Levant Red in the province were kept by one owner near the outskirts of the provincial capital. Also, the genetic content of the Levant Red is being diluted by crossbreeding with Segura and Manchega. Meat of the crossbred lambs is considered superior in quality to that of the purebred.


Both are local types of Pyrenean semi-fine wooled sheep which MASON (1967) regards as varieties of the Aragon breed. As shown in Fig.1, the Ansotana is found in the valley of the Veral River, Huesca Province, and the Roncalesa in the neighbouring valley of the river Esca, Navarre Province. Meat is the main product. In flocks of 300–400 head, sheep of both breeds graze extensively during the winter in central Zaragoza. In early May they are transported by truck to their home valleys. Lambs, mature rams, and ewes are segregated into bands of 800–1 000 head, with each band containing sheep of two or more owners. A band requires the services of one shepherd, and today the usual practice is to share the work among the owners during the summer. Grazing progresses in stages form lower to higher elevations until pastures near the summit of the Pyrenees are reached in mid-August. Owners reported that it is not uncommon to lose some sheep to predatory bears each summer. The sheep remain in the high pastures until early November usually. The bands then are brought back to the valleys below and are reconstituted according to ownership into flocks which are taken south to the winter grazing areas.

Description. Sheep of the two breeds seen in the survey were essentially as described by SANCHEZ BELDA et al. (1964), SANCHEZ BELDA (1966) and MASON (1967) for the Aragon breed except for the convex nasal profile, which was not characteristic of the sheep surveyed (Fig. 8b, e). A strain of Roncalesa, much smaller than other sheep of the breed, was reported to be bred in the lower Esca valley (Fig.1), an area not visited during the survey.

Analysis of fleece samples. The single Ansotana sample taken in July, 1975, was 40 mm long and kempy. The fibre diameter distribution was from 22 to 64 μm, then 90 to 166 μm, with the high mean and mode 45 μm and 34 μm respectively. The fleece was clearly of hairy type, as there were 30 percent medullated fibres.

The two Roncalesa samples taken also in July, 1975, were 40 and 55 mm long and were coarse, but relatively non-hairy. The overall diameter range was 16 to 94 μm; the means were 30.2 and 37.5, with modes of 24 and 30 μm. The coarser of the two had 18 percent medullated fibres, but the fleece type was probably hairy medium rather than true hairy.

Performance. Roncalesa and Ansotana are considered to be the two best meat breeds of Spain, and for each the sale of lambs represents about 85 percent of income. Some milk lambs are sold, but most are weaned at 4 to 5 weeks and fed a high-concentrated diet for 3½ - 4 months, attaining a live weight of 25–30 kg before sold. Milk: yield is 0.3 kg litres daily for 120 days, less after four months. Market demand for cheese from milk of the Roncalesa far exceeds supply; milk is estimated to yield 140 g roncal cheese per litre. Wool and milk each provide about 7½ percent of annual income. Shearing is once per year, in May or June. Reproduction: the lambing rate is 102–110 percent; ewes are mated at 15 months of age, lambing once a year.

Adaptation. Sheep of the Ansotana and Roncalesa breeds are hardy, resistant to thirst, and strong walkers. Brucellosis is the major disease affecting the breeds; the Veterinary Service provides serum at low cost for inoculations against the disease.

Status. Neither breed is threatened at present. On the basis of the survey findings in July, 1975, the population of the Ansotana was about 14 500, of which 8 000 were purebred and the remainder crossed with Churro. Roncalesa were estimated to number about 20 000, nearly all purebred.

Because crossbreeding is practised by the owners of the Ansotana, its position is somewhat less secure than that of the Roncalesa. Both breeds are in decline, and their present populations are about half that of 10 years ago (MINISTERIO DE AGRICULTURA, 1955, 1973a). The principal reason appears to be the shortage of shepherds. Average wages for a shepherd have greatly increased in the region, yet the number of persons willing to tend sheep has steadily declined as young men of the valleys have been able to find employment elsewhere in other kinds of work.

5. LOURDES (Lourdaise)

This transhumant breed is found in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées, France, in the valleys of the Gave de Pau and the Gave de Cauterets and in widely scattered holdings east and southeast of Lourdes (Fig. 1). The most common flock size is 50–80 ewes with one or two rams. Lourdes sheep are taken in early June to high natural pastures near the Spanish border where they remain for about four months. The sheep are tended by the owners, who formerly would stay with their flocks throughout the summer, but now many of them leave their sheep at the grazing grounds, returning once a week to ascertain their flock's location and condition. In early October the sheep are taken back to the valley farms and put to enclosed pasture for the winter, with supplementary stall-feeding.

Description. QUITTET (1965) and MASON (1967) describe the common variety of Lourdes (which local breeders call “grand format”) as usually white, but occasionally brown or pied, with rams always horned, and ewes usually horned. Rams range from 70–90 cm at the withers and weigh 70–100 kg. Ewes are 60–78 cm in height, and weight 55–80 kg. A small variety of the breed is recognized, the Barégeoise, named for its breeding centre, the village of Barèges (Fig. 1). In the survey, a flock of Barégeoise was seen at summer grazing near Pic de Bouneu, 2 726 m (Fig. 8f). Sheep in this flock were similar in appearance to the “grand format” variety of Lourdes, but were estimated to be 10–15 percent smaller.

Analysis of fleece. The Lourdes is described as medium-coarse fleeced by MASON (1967), and the single sample taken in July, 1975, was 65 mm long with an appearance like that of a British Down breed, but with pointed staples. The fibre diameter ranged from 14 to 58 μm with a mean of 36.7 and a mode of 34 μm. The diameter distribution was symmetrical, and, with 3 percent medullated fibres, the fleece type was either medium or hairy medium.

The skin sample had no medullated fibres, and the S/P ratio was 4.3.

Performance. Meat accounts for 90–95 percent of annual return from the breed, and wool provides the remainder. Lambs are sold for slaughter at 2–3 months. The conformation of Barégeoise lamb is much superior to that of the grand format, and there is consequently a significant difference in market values between the two varieties. The Lourdes is not milked. Lambing rate was reported to be 150 percent, with 90 percent of newborn lambs surviving.

Adaptation. The Lourdes is a strong, hardy sheep. It was reported that feed requirements during the winter are low, and that weight lost during winter was quickly recovered in the summer. Inoculations against brucellosis are routinely given, and the incidence of affected sheep in the area was reported to be 0.2 percent in 1975.

Status. Both varieties of the Lourdes are vulnerable, but the position of the common grand format is worse than that of the Barégeoise, as shown below. PORTAL and QUITTET, 1950; QUITTET, 1965; DEPT. DES HAUTES-PYRENEES, 1969).

Grand format
 68 00040 00040 00015 00010 000
 17 00015 000
 Total68 00040 00040 00032 00025 000

In a report by C.E.R.A.F.E.R. (1971) it was noted that only the older farmers were maintaining purebred Lourdes. Young owners found the grand format too difficult to manage, and were crossing them with Berrichon, or were replacing the breed with Aure-Campan and Tarascon. The survey found that this trend continues for the grand format variety. The improved market for Berégeoise lambs and the growing recognition of the superior stamina of the breed are factors which have slowed the decline of the smaller variety. It was noted during the survey that a new afforestation scheme in the central Pyrenees has reduced the area of land available for the grazing of cattle, to the advantage of sheep breeders.


The Race d'Aure et de Campan, or, most commonly, Auroise, is a semi-fine wooled breed in the south-central part of Hautes-Pyrénées: Vieille-Aure and Aspin-Aure in the valley of the Neste d'Aure, and to the east, the commune of Nistos and the villages of Ourde and Ferrère (Fig. 2). The Auroise is derived from two local breeds which had been crossed with imported Merinos during the 18th century (C.E.R.A.F.E.R., 1971). The average flock size today is about 250; it was 50 head per flock thirty years ago. In the recent past, the number of cattle and sheep per holding was about equal, but now sheep outnumber cattle. In the first week of June the animals are taken from the valleys to the mountains, where they remain through September. Some flocks are driven into the Pyrenees to the south, but the greater number go into the high country between Mt. Né and the Nistos region (Fig. 2). The grazing there is above 1 500 m, for the area is heavily wooded from the valley floor up to this elevation. The flocks of several owners are combined into bands each ranging from 500 to 1 500 head. The owners' cattle, in small herds, graze near the sheep. Each band is tended by an owner or by a hired shepherd; most of the latter are of Spanish nationality, because there is a shortage of shepherds locally.

Description. The flock of purebred Auroise seen during the survey was as described by QUITTET (1965) and MASON (1967), i.e., of medium size, with greyish-white or brownish-grey coat, occasionally dark brown or black. Females usually are without horns; males are usually horned (Fig. 9a).

Performance. By value, 90 percent of annual income is from lambs sold for slaughter and 10 percent from wool. Lambs are sold when 2½ – 3½ months old, and 24–30 kg according to age. The meat is of good quality, superior to the Tarascon. By market standards, conformation is mediocre, and production is now primarily for lambs born of Auroise ewes crossed with either Tarascon or Berrichon rams.

Reproduction: the lambing rate is about 110 percent.

Adaptation. Although of strong constitution, the Auroise is considered to be somewhat less hardy than the Lourdaise and the Tarascon, but more “lively” and more difficult for the shepherd to control than the other two breeds.

Status. Survey findings indicate that the Auroise is vulnerable. Breed-population estimates (PORTAL and QUITTET, 1950; MIN. DE L'AGRIC., 1963, 1970):

Auroise (excluding crosses):47 00029 00030 00025 00015 000

The situation is more serious than these figures suggest, because in recent years there has been a substantial decrease in the number of holdings of the Auroise breed and in the number of purebred rams. It is estimated that the number of owners of the breed has declined from about 600 in 1963 to about 250 today. On the basis of findings at the time of the survey (July, 1975), there were only about 75 mature purebred Auroise rams in the region.


The Castillonnais (formerly Saint Gironnaise), a variety (with the Tarascon) of the Central Pyrenean breed, is found in the valley of the Lez, southwest of St. Girons, Ariège. The main breeding area is near the villages of Castillon-en-Couserans and Bordes (Fig. 2). Formerly the breed was found over the whole of St. Girons arrondissement and in nearby parts of the department of Haute Garonne, but beyond the Lez there are few, if any, purebred Castillon now. Holdings consist of 100–150 ewes and 20–30 cattle. Husbandry is similar to that described for the Lourdes and the Aure-Campan, i.e., during winter each flock is kept at pasture at the owner's farm in the valley, with some additional feed provided at the stall, and for four months during the summer the sheep graze in about 30 communal bands of 800–1 300 head in the mountains southeast of La Pucelle (Fig. 2). Each band is tended by a Spanish shepherd and his dog. The practice of hiring shepherds for the summer work began in 1966. Previously, the owners shared the task of tending the communal bands at the rate of one day's work as shepherd for every 20 of the owner's sheep in the band. But during the 1950s, owners became reluctant to stay for prolonged periods in the mountains, and the summer grazing period was shortened accordingly. An unwelcome result was the spread of blackberry, rhododendron, and other non-forage plants into areas which had supported grasses when grazed for the full four months of the summer. The number of transhumant sheep decreases each year by about 200 head (RESPAUD, 1975b).

Description. Castillon sheep are described by QUITTET (1965) and MASON (1967); rams 60–70 cm, 50 kg, always horned; ewes 50–65 cm, 40–45 kg; head has a slightly convex profile; ears are medium-small, carried horizontally or slightly upwards; coat is white; the head, legs, and belly are reddish-brown or partly reddish-brown; the shade varies from dark to light. The Castillon sheep seen in the course of the survey conformed to this description (Fig. 9c). Lambs are born entirely reddish-brown, and mature animals are not considered purebred unless the head is at least partly “red”, a recessive characteristic.

Analysis of fleece. QUITTET (1965) and MASON (1967) describe the fleece as coarse, with springy wool containing much hair, used for mattress filling. The single skin sample obtained in the present study had 24 percent medullated fibres and the surprisingly high S/P ratio of 6.3.

Performance. Almost all the income is derived from the sale of lambs, 80 percent of which are sold for fattening to buyers from the Toulouse region. The other 20 percent are slaughter lambs for local butchers. Only about 3 percent of total value is derived from sale of wool. Purebred Castillon lambs have poor conformation, but the Castillon-Tarascon cross is much superior.

Reproduction: the lambing rate is 110–115 percent.

Adaptation. The Castillon, typical of the hardy Central Pyrenean breeds, is well-suited to the contrasting conditions of valley and high mountain in southern France. Hardier than the Tarascon on rough, exposed terrain where herbage is scant, the Castillon also maintains good condition with minimal supplementary feeding during the winter. Ewes are good milkers, and their lambs are better nourished than those of Tarascon ewes. Brucellosis is the main disease affecting the flocks.

Status. As a result of 20 years of fusion with the Tarascon, the Castillon is now an endangered breed. There are about 20 000 sheep in France that are officially classified as Castillon, but the survey data strongly suggest that less than 1 000 of these are purebred. Numbers for this breed given in the literature generally fail to discriminate between pure and crossbred animals. One may accept MASON's (1967) statement as valid at the time: “The breed numbers only a few thousand and is decreasing as the Tarascon advances.” (See also C.E.R.A.F.E.R., 1971) The most serious factor affecting survival is the critically small number of purebred rams.

In the principal centre of the breed, the Castillon and Bordes area, there were only five mature purebred Castillon rams at the time of the survey (July, 1975). The ten owners in Castillon and Bordes held 1 089 ewes, of which 100–300 are estimated to be pure Castillon, and the remainder, Castillon-Tarascon crossbred (RESPAUD, 1975a).


The Rouge du Roussillon (locally, Rouge du Littoral) is a medium-fine wool breed in the lowlands of southeastern Pyrénées Orientales department. The origin of the breed is unknown. PUJOL (1974) accepts as valid the tradition that the Roussillon Red is of North African origin (it is sometimes referred to as the Barbarin, i.e. the Tunisian Barbary) with introduction to France via Spain. SANCHEZ BELDA (1976a and b) postulates that both the Roussillon Red and the Majorca Red have Barbary ancestry. He rejects the suggestion that the funnel-tailed Roussillon Red and the thin-tailed Levant Red are closely related, in spite of their similarity in colour and their geographical proximity. Roussillon Red are in the flocks of about 15 owners whose holdings are scattered along the Mediterranean coast within 20 km of Perpignan (Fig. 2). Formerly, when the breed was more numerous, its distribution extended north into the department of Aude, but the survey indicated that the breed there has been either absorbed or displaced by Lacaune. The sheep are kept in sedentary mixed flocks of Roussillon Red, Lacaune, and crosses of the two breeds. From mid-October to the end of March, the flocks are taken from their sheds out to the owners' vineyards and fruit and vegetable fields where they graze on residues after harvest. From April through the summer they subsist on natural vegetation - on coarse grasses in fields too salty for cultivation and in nearby areas of garrigue. A free mating system prevails, with Roussillon Red rams with the ewes early in the year (for autumn lambing) and Lacaune rams with the ewes later in the year (for spring lambing).

Description. Roussillon Red sheep seen during the survey (Fig. 9e) conformed to the description of PUJOL (1974), QUITTET (1965), and MASON (1967). Ewes are 65–75 cm in height and 55–65 kg; rams are from 75–90 cm in height and 75–100 kg. Colour: both the head and the legs may be entirely reddish-brown, but more commonly are pied reddish-brown with white; until six or seven months after birth, the fleece of lambs is reddish-brown; for mature animals it is white or yellow-white. The 2 percent of the breed that are black are not accepted as pure Roussillon Red. Head, legs, and belly are bare of fleece and reddish-brown. The neck is medium long. The ears are reddish-brown, of medium size, and hang slightly forward. The tail is long and thin except for its wide base, which extends funnel-shaped for the first 6–10 cm.

Analysis of fleece samples. MASON (1967) describes the fleece of the Roussillon Red as medium fine with a quality of 58s to 60s. The single fleece sample obtained in July was 20 mm long, and appeared like British Down wool. The overall fibre diameter range was 20 to 44 μm with a mean of 31.4 and a mode of 30 μm. There were, however, 6 percent medullated fibres, but the symmetrical diameter distribution classifies it as a shortwool type. The skin sample had 6 percent medullated fibres, and an S/P ratio of 4.7.

Performance. Sales for meat account for 95 percent of value. The market is mainly for lambs slaughtered when 75–80 days old and 27–28 kg. Up to this weight, Roussillon Red lambs are of good quality for local taste, but if heavier, are considered too fatty. Older and heavier crossbred lambs of Roussillon Red and Lacaune, however, retain the desired leanness. Barren ewes are exported to the mutton markets in Montpellier and Narbonne. Wool now accounts for about 5 percent of income derived from sheep. Like that of the Sudat, the wool is unusually greasy. Milk: the breed is a good milker, producing an abundant quantity over a long lactation period. Formerly, the ewes in some flocks were milked for making a soft cheese which sold well in the area.

Reproduction: the twinning rate of about 3–5 percent compensates for abortions and barren ewes. About 80 percent of the ewes lamb once per year (in September); 20 percent lamb again (in April).

Adaptation. The Roussillon Red is not adversely affected by the high temperatures of summer (40° or more) nor by the strong, cool, drying wind of the tramontane. The abortion rate of 3–5 percent is low compared to that of the Lacaune. It is usually brucellosis, rather than the high summer temperatures during gestation, that causes Roussillon Red ewes to abort. The sheep maintain good condition even during the six months or so when grazing is limited to the scrub garrigue and the coarse grasses in the salt flats along the coast.

Status. The Roussillon Red is an endangered breed. The survey findings are in agreement with PUJOL (1974) that less than 1 000 Roussillon Red ewes exist. In fact, at the time of the survey, it was estimated that the total number was 750 ewes and 25 mature rams. The holdings of the 15 owners of these sheep consisted mainly of Lacaune and crosses of Lacaune and Roussillon Red. The breed has been declining for many years: from more than 50 000 in 1900 (PUJOL, 1974) to 3 000 in 1963 (MINESTERE AGRIC., 1963), but its survival has become critical in recent years. Tourism is a major factor in the decline of sheep production in the Perpignan area, as it is in the region of the Levant Red farther south along the coast. Already much of the Roussillon Red's grazing land has been taken over by dozens of new holiday camps and by developers of “summer home” estates.


The Peone of France is a transhumant breed found in the upper valleys of the rivers Vésubie and Var in Alpes-Maritime department and in a small area of eastern Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, where the breed is called the Mourérousse (see Fig. 2). The origin of the Peone is unknown. GILBERT (private communication, 1976) considers it to be basically of native Alpine stock that became isolated from the Préalpes du Sud. He suggests the possibility that sheep imported from North Africa to southern France during the 19th and early 20th century may have contributed to its genetic content. From October to June, flocks of Peone are kept in open pastures on the valley farms where they are exposed to the cold and violence of the mistral. Alpine (Commune des Alpes) and Arles Merino ewes are mated with Peone rams for crossbreds that are resistant to the effects of this bitterly cold wind. During the winter only ewes with lambs (and the few flocks that are in the high valleys) are stall-fed. Individual holdings range from 200 to 300 head of pure and crossbred sheep. In late June, several holdings are combined into bands of 800 to 1 000 sheep and walked from the valleys to the high grazing places in the mountains where they remain until early October.

Description. In some ways the Peone (Fig. 9f) resembles the Rouge du Roussillon. In both breeds the head and legs are red or reddish-brown, the fleece white or yellow-white, and the ears are medium long, nearly horizontal, or drooping forward slightly. But other characteristics of the two breeds are significantly different. Peone are smaller, with a withers height of 60–65 cm for ewes and about 75 cm for rams. In proportion to the trunk, the legs of the Peone are shorter. Unlike the Rouge du Roussillon, the Peone has a top knot, and its fleece extends below the sides to cover the belly. Although the bridge of the nose is commonly white in both breeds, the muzzle of the Peone is broader than that of the Rouge du Roussillon. Ewes are polled, but rams are horned.

Analysis of fleece samples. The four fleece samples taken in July ranged from 20 to 40 mm in length, with a mean of 30 mm. They were all fine, with a quality of 58s, but lacked crimp. The wool therefore resembled that of a British Down type rather than Merino. The overall fibre diameter range was from 14 to 62 μm, the modes ranged from 26 to 40 μm with a mean of 32.5 μm and the mean diameters ranged from 27.9 to 35.3 to give an overall mean diameter of 32.7 μm. The similarity of the modes and means reflects the symmetrical diameter distribution, all being true medium fleece types, with one tending towards the fine type. The three skin samples had the relatively high mean S/P follicle ratio of 6.2/1, which is, however, in keeping with the relatively fine mean fibre diameter.

Performance. Production is for lambs to be sold for butchering at 4–6 months of age. Reproduction: ewes are first mated at 12–16 months, lambing once per year, usually October-November. The lambing rate is 130–150 percent, with about 10 percent mortality before market age. For commercial purposes, the conformation of Peone lambs is mediocre (but superior to the Arles Merino); improvement is achieved by crossing with Préalpes du Sud.

Adaptation. On forage that is meagre or of poor quality the Peone maintains condition better than the Préalpes du Sud, but not as well as the Arles Merino, which also has greater resistance to cold and windy weather.

Status. The Peone is endangered; it numbered approximately 1 200 ewes and 40 rams in seven holdings in Alpes Maritimes department at the time of the survey (June, 1975). In addition, there is an unknown (but very small) number of the breed north of Col de la Cayolle in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Also 15 Peone rams were seen at Pauves à Puget-Théniers, a stud centre for local sheep owners maintained by the Chambre d'Agriculture, Alpes Maritimes.

10. SAMBUCO (Sambucana)

Sheep of this Italian breed are found in southwestern Cuneo Province, in the valleys of the rivers Bagni, Stura di Demonte, and, formerly, the Maira (Fig. 3). The elevation of the valleys is from 1 300 to 1 900 metres, with snow on the ground four to five months of the year. The sheep are kept in family flocks of six or seven head, spending the summer in the mountains, and wintering in the valleys where they graze on farm pastures with supplemental feed at the stalls. Of all of the breeds surveyed, only the Sambuco and the Vicenza (see below) are bred solely for wool.

Description. MASON (1967) classified the Sambuco as one of the medium-wooled Apennine group, related to the Massa and Garfagnana of Tuscany. The height of rams is 66–72 cm, and of ewes, 57–60 cm. The colour is yellow-white; about 8 percent of the breed are dark brown or black. The profile of the head is slightly convex; ears are horizontal and small, and the tail thin and hanging to the hocks (Fig. 10a). Both sexes are usually polled; however, rams with small horns are considered locally to be the “purest” representatives of the breed.

Analysis of fleece samples. One of the two fleece samples taken in July was too short to measure, and the other was 100 mm long. The overall diameter range was from 22 to 120 μm, the mean diameters being 33.6 ± 6.2 and 52.2 ± 15.6, and the modes 30 and 50 μm. The shorter and finer of the two samples had 1 percent medullation, and was classified as a short wool. The other had 19 percent medullated fibres and was hairy. Only from this animal was a skin sample taken, and there was no medullation in the skin; the S/P ratio was 4.3.

Performance. Wool accounts for 50–60 percent of income, lamb and young mutton (castrato) 35–40 percent, and milk 5–10 percent. By current market standards, the lambs are of poor conformation, weight is reported to be 4.5 kg at birth, 8 kg at 30 days (BATICLE, 1974) and 24 kg at 90 days (MASON, 1967). Reproduction: ewes lamb twice per year, March-April and October-November; the lambing rate is 150 percent.

Status. The Sambuco is vulnerable, numbering from 1 400–1 600 head in 90–120 holdings (holdings of all breeds in Cuneo Province decreased from 8 090 in 1961 to 3 539 in 1970, ISTITUTO CENTRALE DI STATISTICA, 1963, 1974). At the time of the survey, it was estimated that about 60 purebred rams remained in Cuneo Province. Crossing with the Fabriano and breeds imported from France has been a major factor in its decline.


The Garessina (also Muma) is a transhumant meat breed found in southeastern Cuneo Province, mainly in Val Tanaro and Val d'Inferno (Fig. 3). A few may also exist in the valleys of the Negrone and the Casotto, where they formerly were found in greater numbers (FEDERCONSORZI, 1961). MASON (1967) classified the Garessio as an Apennine breed, showing traces of Merino and French Alpine ancestry. Husbandry is as described for the Sambuco.

Description. The breed is similar to the Sambuco, but smaller (Fig. 10b). Rams average about 60 cm in height, ewes about 53 cm.

Fleece analysis. The five fleece samples taken in June had a mean length of 35 mm. The overall diameter range was from 20 to 120 μm. The mean values ranged from 39.8 ± 9.4 μm to 48.8 ± 19.7 μm, with an average of 43.0 μm, and the modes ranged from 30 to 50 μm, with a mean of 39.4 μm. Each sample had medullated fibres, the mean proportion being 37 percent. One sample was clearly hairy, but the others appeared more like British Down wool, and were classified as hairy medium wools, i.e. much coarser than implied by MASON's (1967) description. In the skin, a mean of 31.0 percent of the primary fibres, and 3.8 percent of the secondaries, were medullated, and the S/P ratio was 4.5.

Performance. Weight of lamb at birth is 3 kg, at 1 month 6 kg, and at 3 months 20 kg (BATICLE. 1974; MASON, 1967). About 90 percent of income is derived from the sale of lambs for slaughter and about 10 percent from the sale of wool. A few families still make cheese from the milk. Reproduction: on the average, ewes lamb twice in three years. The lambing rate was reported to be 120–150 percent.

Adaptation. Owners consider the Garessio to be hardier than the other breeds common in the flocks of the area (Biella, Langhe, and Frabosa). In addition, the breed is more thrifty than the other breeds as it does not require feed concentrates during winter.

Status. Endangered. Estimates of breed numbers for 1961–1975 are as follows:

Garessio2 7001 4001 555600–700

The principal cause of the Garessio's decline has been the increase in the cross-breeding of ewes with rams of the Frabosa, Langhe, and Biella.


The Carapelle (also called Moretta) is an Italian milk and wool sheep formerly kept in flocks of mixed breeds in the Carapelle valley, Orta Nova commune, southwest of Foggia, Apulia (Fig. 5). A local name is “black Merino”, although some sheep breeders consider the Carapelle to be a variety of the Lecce (Moscia leccese), a carpet-wool breed popular in Apulia (FEDERCONSORZI, 1961). Livestock in general does not have a major role in the Apulian economy.

Description. In our survey (November, 1974) only one Carapelle was found, a two-year-old ewe, 61 cm high at the withers (Fig. 12a). The coat was a very dark brown, and the face and legs were black and bare of wool. This sheep was horned, yet according to FEDERCONSORZI (1961) and MASON (1967) both sexes are polled.

Analysis of fleece samples. The mean wool fibre diameter of 31.2 μm was higher than that of the local Merino, and the S/P follicle ratio of 5.3 lower. Three samples taken from Gentile di Puglia sheep for comparison had a mean fibre diameter of 24.8 μm and an S/P follicle ratio of 8.9/1. The Carapelle therefore appears to be of primitive, rather than Merino type.

Performance. According to PEDIGLIERI (1973), rams yield 3 kg wool, and ewes, 1.7 kg. Milk: 50–60 kg in 230 days, for cheese yielding 200 g per litre. Meat: lambs at 30 days 9 kg and at 90 days 17 kg. Reproduction: the lambing rate is 140 percent.

Adaptation. Because of its dark colour, the Carapelle is not seriously affected by the presence of Hypericum in the grazing areas.

Status. FEDERCONSORZI in 1961 recorded only 300 Carapelle. Today the breed appears to be very near extinction. During the past twenty years the large agricultural estates in the area have been broken up into small holdings for irrigated farming, and the changes in the land-use and tenure system have brought about a precipitous decline in numbers of sheep there (MOUNTJOY, 1972). The spread of Hypericum spp. concurrent with the introduction and extension of irrigation, also is a factor in the general decline of sheep.

13. PAG (Paška)

The triple-purpose breed from Pag Island in northern Dalmatia (Fig. 4) is classified by MASON (1967) as one of the semi-fine wooled group which is said to have been formed early in the 19th century by crossing Merinos with the local Pramenka. The Paduan breed may also have contributed to its formation. Pag are kept in flocks of 30–120 head by almost every family on the island.

Description. The Pag is a small breed (Fig. 10f). Rams 57–59 cm, ewes 53–56 cm. The colour is white, frequently with reddish-brown spots on the face and head. About 10 percent of the sheep in the flocks seen during the survey were black. Ears are small, horizontal and lateral. The tail is thin and of medium length. Rams have horns that spiral laterally; most ewes are polled, but small horns are not uncommon. MASON (1967) stated that the sheep often have four horns, but no multi-horned sheep were seen during the survey.

Analysis of fleece samples. MASON quoted wool qualities of 58s to 64s (well into Merino quality) although his mean diameter of 28 μm corresponds with the lower end and not the upper end of the quality range.

The five samples taken in the present study in November had a mean length of 60 mm, and were like a “tippy” British Down or fine hairy type, two being black “Macedonian” animals. The overall diameter range was from 16 to 64 μm with modes of 24 to 30 μm and a mean mode of 26.8 μm. The mean diameters ranged from 29.1 to 33.0 μm.

There was a mean of 7 percent fibre medullation, but only 1 percent in the skin, and the S/P was 5.6. This wool was clearly not of Merino type, but despite the medullation it can be classified as “shortwool”, i.e. the finest non-Merino type.

Performance. Although the Pag is a triple-purpose breed, income is chiefly from milk (for cheese), and from lambs sold for slaughter. The annual wool clip is about 1 kg per head (NICOLIC, 1962). Ewes lactate for 7–8 months after lambing in February-March. Reproduction: as reported by MASON (1967), 10–15 percent of ewes are barren; twins are rare.

Adaptation. The Pag is exceptionally frugal. It thrives on the sparse degraded vegetation of the island.

Status. The breed is not threatened at present. Of approximately 30 000 sheep on island, about 25 000 are “pure” Pag. The remainder are derived from Pag crossed with Sarda (to improve milk production) and with Macedonian. It is estimated that sheep on the island numbered 38 000 in 1880, and 18 000 in 1962 (GEOGRAFIA S.R. HRVATSKE, 1974)

14. DUBROVNIK (Dubrovačka)

The Dubrovnik is a triple-purpose breed found along the Adriatic coast near the city of Dubrovnik and offshore on the islands of Šipan, Lopud and Koločep (Fig. 4). In the recent past each family had from fifteen to twenty sheep, but now most holdings range from one to six. The five flocks seen in the survey (December, 1974) numbered three to five ewes. In the summer, the sheep graze in the owners' olive groves and vineyards. During the winter they are stall-fed with olive leaves, hay, and bran. Throughout the year, the sheep are tended and milked only by women.

Description. To the description of this white-faced, polled breed given by MASON (1967) can be added the following points: the rams are sometimes horned, the nose is bare and slightly convex, but there is a woollytop knot (Fig. 10d). The tail is long.

Analysis of fleece samples. Of the nine samples taken, the fleece length ranged from 40–100 mm, with a mean of 63 mm. (Dec.). Most fibres had a diameter within the range 15 to 55 μm, but six had a few hairs ranging up to 88 μm in diameter, and thus were hairy medium wools on the classification of RYDER (1969). These had a skewed diameter distribution, with the bulk of the fibres being fine, while the remaining three samples had a symmetrical distribution, being fine medium wools.

The overall mean diameter was 34 μm, and the average of the most frequent diameters was 31 μm. This is somewhat coarser than the figure of 28–30 μm given by MASON. But even this is coarser than the quality of 58s–60s he quotes. The wool lacks crimp and is no more than about 50s quality. The mean percentage of medullated fibres was 6 percent. There was virtually no medullation in the skin, which is in keeping with the time of sampling in winter when medullation is lost. There was evidence of inac tivity in 2–3 percent of the follicles. The secondary/primary follicle ratio ranged from 3.5 to 6.0 with a mean of 4.7. The wool from the 10 percent of sheep with coloured fleeces was desired in the past to make naturally coloured garments. The fleece weight is from one to two kg. The accepted view quoted by MASON is that the Dubrovnik breed derives from a recent cross between the Merino and the Pramenka, and introductions of the Merino into the area are well documented. But there are various features such as the lack of crimp, and the high lambing percentage, which suggest that this breed cannot derive solely from this cross. The S/P ratio values obtained in the present study also oppose this origin. Assuming that the Merinos introduced would have had an S/P ratio at least as high as the Spanish Merino (10/1), the Dubrovnik would be expected to have a value intermediate (6.6) between this and that of the Pramenka (3.3); yet, the figure was only 4.7.

It therefore seems likely that the Dubrovnik is a relic of an ancient fine wool. This accords with historical evidence that this area had contacts with peoples who could have introduced such a sheep, and in the Middle Ages the city of Dubrovnik had a well-developed wool-textile industry.

Performance. Today income is mainly from milk (for cheese) and from the sale of lambs slaughtered at 35–40 days. The ewe is milked from February until July, with yield declining from a maximum of two litres daily at the beginning of lactation, to about one-half litre at the end. Reproduction: barrenness is common because there is only one ram in each district, and no attempt is made to detect heat. But among ewes lambing, there is a 145 percent lambing, and a long breeding season, from autumn to spring. Ewes often lamb three times in two years. Twins are common; triplets and quadruplets are not unusual. Both sexes will mate in their first year.

Adaptation. The Dubrovnik is well adapted to the mild climatic conditions of the coast. Feed requirements are minimal.

Status. The breed is declining rapidly, and is endangered. It was estimated at the time of the survey that the Dubrovnik numbered about 1 000. In 1962 there were approximately 20 000 sheep of the breed (NIKOLIĆ, 1962). Sheep (predominantly Pramenka) in Dubrovnik commune have decreased from 30 239 in 1960 to 9832 in 1970 (SAVEZNI ZAVOD ZA STATISTIKU… 1960, 1971). Locally, tourism offers greater income than animal husbandry, and most people today prefer this or other work to tending sheep.



The Caussenarde des Garrigues, a type of the semi-coarse wooled Blanc du Massif Central, evolved from breeds native to the scrubland of the Garrigues region and the lime-stone causses southeast of the Massif Central. The breed is found south of the Cévennes in the departments of Hérault and Gard (Fig.2). Since the early years of this century, the Garrigues Causses has been crossed with other Causses types (Lozère, Cévennes or Rayole) and with the Préalpes du Sud. In the survey, a flock of about 400 “mostly pure” Garrigues Causses were seen in July, 1975, near Salarials, on Mount Lozère, c. 1 760 m elevation. The larger holdings of the breed (200–500 head), are taken from the winter grazing areas in the plains to the high plateaux of Lozère, a part of the Cévennes National Park established in 1970. There during the summer they graze in communal flocks of 400–2 000 head, tended by one or two shepherds. Most of the small flocks of Garrigues Causses remain throughout the year in farm areas south of the Cévennes in Languedoc, part of the year grazing on the residue in the vineyards after the grape harvest. But the area available for winter grazing is much smaller than formerly and, to compensate for this, migratory flocks are taken in early spring and late autumn to the middle altitudes of the southern Massif (GILBERT, 1973). But year by year, the number of transhumant flocks and the sheep decline (BONNET, 1973). Each year it becomes more difficult to find competent shepherds for the migration, and it is estimated that more than half of Garrigues Causses sheep are in sedentary flocks (BRISEBARRE-CRÉPIN, 1975).

Description. The Garrigues Causses seen in the survey were as described by QUITTET (1965) and MASON (1967), i.e., with white, semi-closed fleece, with head, legs and underside of the belly bare, and ears small and horizontal (Fig. 9b). Rams weigh 60–70 kg, and all were horned. Ewes weigh 45–50 kg; a minority seen were horned. Some had reddish-brown faces. The tail was thin and hung to the hocks.

Performance. Almost all income is derived from sale of lambs for slaughter. Lambs weigh 2. 5–3 kg, at birth and are sold at 6 months and 30 kg. Conformation is poor. Reproduction: ewes first lamb when 2 years old, and thereafter once per year. The lambing rate is 120–125 percent.

Adaptation. The breed is hardy, thrifty, and well adapted to local conditions. Crosses of Garrigues Causses and Préalpes have good conformation, but are notably less able than pure-breds to maintain condition on the migrations, and they require feed concentrates during part of the winter. Many of the animals, pure and crossbred, are infected with brucellosis.

Status. Because the data for the Garrigues Causses are not adequate to make a sound estimate of the present numbers and the population trend of the breed, its status is indeterminate. According to POUZOLS (1974), Garrigues Causses have declined from 55–60 000 ewes in 1929 to 15–20 000 in 1974, but it appears that these numbers are for the department of Hérault only. On the basis of interviews with breeders and officials during the survey, it is estimated that not more than 5 000 mature Garrigues Causses are in the transhumant flocks. This estimate is supported by GILBERT's (1973) data on summer transhumance which showed that the department of Lozère receives 15 000 head of sheep (of all breeds) from Gard and 1 600 from Hérault.


The race de Thônes et Marthod (also Mauriennaise) is a coarse-wooled, Alpine breed found in Savoie department, France. Its present distribution is limited to the Val d'Arly (including the canton of Marthod) and eastern Maurienne (the upper valley of the Arc River) (Fig. 2). The breed formerly was found in Tarentaise (upper valley of the Isère in Haute Savoie, but the Thônes-Marthod has disappeared there as the result of crossbreeding. In Italy the breed is known as the St. Jeande Maurienne and about 1 200 purebreds and crosses are found between Mont Blanc and Aosta. In France the sheep are kept in flocks of 15–25 head on small farms at elevations ranging from about 1 000 to 1 800 m. For transhumance during the summer, ewes and lambs of different owners are brought together into communal flocks (300–1 000 head) which are walked by the shepherd to natural pastures in the mountains, gradually moving up the slopes as the snow recedes and new growth appears. Most owners keep the rams on the farms throughout the year, but some take the rams with the ewes and lambs to the mountain grazing areas. During winter all of the livestock are kept in stalls at the farmsteads.

Description. The Thônes-Marthod is described by GILBERT (1976), PORTAL and QUITTET (1950), QUITTET (1965) and MASON (1967). Height of ewes is 60–65 cm; weight for rams is 70–80 kg., and for ewes 55–65 kg. The colour is white, except for nose tip, ears, and feet, which are black (Fig. 9d). Ears are of medium length and horizontal. The tail, which is thin, and at birth hangs to the hocks, is docked. Both sexes are horned; the rams' project horizontally in a loose spiral. Until early in this century, the Thônes and the Marthod were recognized as two distinct breeds, but in appearance they were much alike, differing only in minor details of horns and colouration. For about 70 years the two have been fused into one breed, apparently without uniform criteria of selection.

Analysis of fleece. As reported by QUITTET (1965) and MASON (1967) the fleece is coarse, although formerly it was used in knitting. The three fleece samples taken in July had a mean length of 40 mm and were of hairy type with pointed staples. The overall diameter range was from 12 to 110 μm. The average of the mean diameters was 38.2 and of the modes 26 μm. The mean proportion of medullated fibres was 21.3 percent. Two of the samples had a continuous diameter distribution and were regarded as true hairy types, whereas the third had a skewed to fine distribution and was classified as a hairy medium wool. The latter had 28 percent pigmented fibres. These were seen as black fibres to the naked eye, so that the wool appeared grey from the mixture of black and white fibres.

The mean proportion of medullated fibres in the skin was 47 percent but virtually all were of relatively narrow non-latticed type, and S/P follicle ratio was 4.7.

Performance. Almost all income is from the sale of lambs for slaughter, sold at 6 months and 40 kg. Conformation, which is poor, is substantially improved in lambs of Thônes-Marthod ewes crossed with Berrichon rams or (less commonly) with Préalpes rams. Reproduction: ewes are first mated at 8 months of age and lamb thereafter once per year (March-early May). In the survey, informants agreed that the breed is unusually prolific, with a lambing rate estimated to be 180–190 percent “Jusqu'à 1,9 agneaux par agnelage en moyenne, dans un élevage” (SYNDICAT DES ELEVEURS DE MOUTONS DE LA SAVOIE, 1975).

Adaptation. The Thônes-Marthod is one of the hardiest of the French breeds, well adapted to the cold winters and rugged terrain of the western Alps. The breed requires little supplemental feed. Ewes are good milkers, and young lambs are well nourished.

Status. The breed is vulnerable. During the survey in Savoie (June, 1975) it was reported that the total number of “pure” mature Thônes-Marthod sheep was approximately 2 000. This estimate compares with 8 700 in 1963 (MINISTERE AGRIC., 1963), 1 900 in 1947, and 32 000 in 1932 (QUITTET, 1965). GILBERT (1976) stated “… il semble qu'il ne reste plus que quelques centaines de sujets (4 à 600) pouvant être qualifiés en race pure.” The future of the Thônes-Marthod is not only affected by commercial considerations which have led to crossbreeding and displacement by other meat breeds. Livestock production in general has been adversely affected by the large numbers of people who have left the farms to find employment elsewhere. The number of farm families in Savoie has decreased by half during the past 20 years, and of those persons who remain on the farm, 65 percent are 50 years of age or older (MINISTERE AGRIC., 1972). In June, 1975, measures to defer further decline of the breed were considered at a meeting in Chambéry attended by members of the Syndicat des Eleveurs de moutons and representatives of the Etablissement départemental d'élevage (EDE).

The EDE proposed that some 170 owners of Thônes-Marthod formally agree to maintain purebred flocks from which ewes would be sold to the other sheep owners of the Syndicat as breeding stock for commercial crossbred lambs. The number of purebred ewes would be increased to 5 000 and remain at that level. Syndicat members who bought ewes would contract to pay a price for the animals that would allow a firm margin of profit for the Thônes-Marthod breeders. This interesting proposal has not yet been acted upon.


(Savoiarda, also Piemontese alpina). This Italian transhumant breed, classified by MASON (1967) as one of the Lop-eared Alpine group, is found in an area northwest of Aosta between the Val di Ferret and the Val di Gran San Bernardo (Fig. 3); formerly the breed was also in the Val di Susa and Val di Lanzo, west of Turin. Pure Savoy exist only in small numbers among flocks of mixed and crossed breeds. During winter, the sheep are stall-fed in the valleys. In early June, sheep and cattle are taken to the mountain slopes above the valleys, grazing first in forested grassland, and, by August, in high Alpine meadows above the timberline. Two shepherds with trained dogs are hired for the summer to tend some 500 sheep and about half as many cattle. Usually by mid-September the cattle and the sheep are again down in the valleys.

Description. Savoy sheep seen during the survey were as described by FEDERCONSORZI (1961) and by MASON (1967), i.e., rams about 74 cm in height and ewes about 69 cm (Fig. 10c). The colour is dirty white except for the nose, eyes, ears, and legs, which may have black spots. Long ears hang horizontally, and the tail is long and thin. Only rams are horned. The fleece was described as mattress type, 120–150 mm long, with no kemp.

Analysis of fleece samples. The single sample obtained in the present study in June was 60 mm long, and less coarse than wool graded mattress type in Britain. The maximum fibre diameter was 66 μm, the mean 35.9 ± 10.7 μm and the mode 30 μm. There were 14 percent medullated fibres. This sample therefore falls within the type hairy medium. In the skin 36 percent of the primary fibres, and 2 percent of the secondaries were medullated, and there was a relatively high S/P ratio of 5.7.

Performance. Formerly income was derived from milk and meat, but now the chief products of the Savoy are meat and breeding animals. Purebred lambs are of poor conformation by the current market standards. Many breeders have replaced the Savoy with the Berrichon, imported from France. Reproduction: the lambing rate is 125–135 percent. Three lambings in two years are not uncommon.

Adaptation. Savoy are strong, hardy sheep, typical of the Italian Alpine breeds.

Status. The Savoy is endangered, chiefly by reason of crossbreeding with Biella, Langhe, and Bergamo. At the time of the survey (June, 1975), it was estimated that mature purebred Savoy numbered about 100, including a total of five or six rams. In 1961, the breed was estimated to number 2 500 (MASON, 1967, from a personal communication by DASSAT). An unknown number of Savoy rams are owned by French breeders near Bourg St. Maurice and are used for crossing with Suffolk and Berrichon ewes.


The Rosset is a transhumant breed found in western Aosta Province, chiefly in the three tributary valleys of the Dora Baltea: Val Grisanche, Val di Rhemes and Val Savaranche. Small numbers are found with other breeds in several valleys of rivers flowing south from Mt Fallere, and in the Val Pelline (Fig. 3). The sheep, kept in small flocks of from five to ten head, are stall-fed during the winter at the farmsteads in the valley. In the summer, the flocks of many owners are combined into bands of about 500 head and taken with cattle up the mountain slopes where they graze, tended by professional shepherds. In mid-September they are returned to the owners in the valley.

Description. The Rosset is not listed by MASON (1967, 1969), nor by FEDERCONSORZI (1961). Sheep of this breed were seen with Savoy and St. Jean de Maurienne (Thônes-Marthod) in mixed flocks on the slopes of Mount Ouille near the French border south of Mont Blanc (Fig. 3). In appearance, the breed resembles Savoy (Fig. 10e). The sheep are relatively small: the withers height for two ewes were 60 cm and 64 cm. The legs are short and sturdy. The coat was yellow-white with reddish-brown spots around the eyes and the lower parts of the legs. The thin tail hung to below the hocks. Both sexes are polled; it was reported that rams sometimes are horned.

Analysis of fleece samples. The staple lengths of the two Rosset sheep sampled in June were 70 and 110 mm; the overall diameter range was 20 to 140 μm, and the modes 30 and 37 μm. The mean diameters were 42.8 ± 11.2 and 48.5 ± 28.5. The proportion of medullated fibres was 26 percent, and both were hairy fleeces. The skin had 8 percent medullation, and an S/P follicle ratio of 4.7.

Performance. Most income is derived from the sale of lambs for slaughter, and a much smaller part from wool sheared during November and April. Lambs weigh 2 kg at birth, 8 kg at one month and are sold for slaughter at three months and 18–29 kg. Reproduction: ewes lamb once per year; twins are common, and the lambing rate was reported to be about 160 percent.

Adaptation. During the survey local owners of sheep were asked to compare the Rosset with the two other breeds in the area, the Savoy and the St. Jean de Maurienne (Thônes-Marthod). The Rosset was considered to be superior to the other two breeds in terms of prolificacy and frugality. It is less resistant to cold weather than the Thônes-Marthod.

Status. The breed has become endangered as a result of crossbreeding (most commonly with Biella). It was estimated at the time of the survey that mature purebred Rosset numbered between 150 and 300 head, of which the total number of rams did not exceed 25.


The Varesina, another of the Lop-eared Alpine breeds, occurs in the area near Biandronno, west of the city of Varese (Fig. 3). A few may still be found in the Olona valley. The breed originally was transhumant, and until the mid-1960's some Varese were in flocks that summered in the Alps. All that remain today are sedentary and are kept in small family flocks of mixed breeds.

Description. Varese sheep seen during the survey were as described by FEDERCONSORZI (1961) and MASON (1967) (See Fig.11a). The sheep is one of the largest in Italy, and only slightly smaller than the Biella, which it closely resembles. Height: rams 80–82 cm, and ewes about 76 cm. Colour: white. The profile of the head is slightly convex. Both sexes are hornless. The tail is long and thin.

Fleece analysis. The Varese is shorn in March before the journey to the mountains, and again in October following its return. MASON gave the 6 months staple length as 110 mm and the wool quality as 48s, the major use again being in mattresses.

The mean length of the five samples obtained in June was 42 mm. The overall diameter range was 20 to 140 μm, and there was little variation in the modes (mean 44.75 μm) or mean diameters (average 50.9 μm). On average 31 percent of the fibres were medullated. In the skin 21 percent of the primaries and 1 percent of the secondary fibres were medullated, and the secondary/primary follicle ratio was 3.6. Only one sample was of typical hairy type, the rest were crisp and coarse, and better described as hairy medium wools, despite the high means and modes.

Performance. Production is mainly for meat and for breeding animals. Lambs are of good conformation for butchering. Reproduction: 55–60 percent of ewes breed twice per year. The lambing rate was reported to be 130–150 percent, with 13–24 percent triplets.

Adaptation. The breed is hardy and well adapted to the sparse pastures of its home area. In stamina it is considered superior to other local breeds, and maintained condition on the migrations that were formerly customary.

Status. Endangered. The breed has almost disappeared from crossing with the Bergamo, Biella, and the Langhe. At the time of the survey it was estimated that purebred Varese numbered about 100, none transhumant; in 1961 there were about 3 000 head (FEDERCONSORZI, 1961).


The Val d'Ultimo, locally Ultnerschaf, also known as Val Senales or Schnalserschaf, is an Alpine meat breed, named after these two valleys of Bolzano Province (Fig. 3) but is now found only in the former (AUSSERHOFER, 1975). The sheep were seen near the villages of Tschermes and St. Pankraz (Fig. 3). The breed is kept in small flocks (10–15 head) to supplement income chiefly derived from dairy cattle and hay production.

The sheep are stall-fed in the valley during the winter. From late May to late September the holdings are combined into bands of 300–500 head and taken to graze in alpine pastures above 2 500 m elevation.

Description. The Val d'Ultimo is derived from local sheep (Steinschaf or Roccia) crossed with Bergamo (FEDERCONSORZI, 1961), and are similar in appearance to the latter, Italy's largest breed (Fig. 11d). Colour: about 80 percent are white, 15 percent black and 5 percent brown. The withers heights of two rams seen at Tschermes during the survey were 82 and 85 cm; another mature ram seen at St. Pankraz was 72 cm; height was recorded for one ewe, 72 cm. Horns are absent.

Analysis of fleece samples. The breed is shorn twice a year (in March-April) and September-October). The two fleece samples taken in the present study in May had a mean length of 65 mm. The overall diameter range was 18–20 μm, with modes of 30 and 40 μm and means of 41.3 ± 15.9 and 45.2 ± 19.9 μm, compared with a value of 45 μm quoted by MASON. There was 16 percent medullated fibres, and the wool was classified as hairy.

Five skin samples were taken, and these had a mean of 20.8 percent medullated primary fibres, and 3 percent of the secondaries; 32 percent of the primaries and 8 percent of the secondaries showed evidence of a spring moult. The mean S/P ratio was 4.7.

Performance. Almost all income is derived from the sale of sheep for slaughter, about 80 percent at 1 to 2 years and 45–80 kg, and the remainder, lambs at six months and 26–30 kg. Only in northern Italy is there a market for mature sheep for slaughter (MINISTERO DELL'AGRICOLTURA, 1972b). Reproduction: ewes are first served at 12 months, and remain fertile for a minimum period of ten years; about 90 percent lamb twice a year. Twins are common, and the lambing rate was reported to be 160–170 percent.

Adaptation. The breed is well adapted to the local environment and husbandry, about average in hardiness and stamina, and relatively free from disease.

Status. The Val d'Ultimo is not threatened at present. Although it declined in numbers during the 1960's, losses have been recovered and it appears to be stable at about 35 000 head in the valley, of which 5–10 percent are crossbred. The Italian Government provides a subsidy to owners who cross their Val d'Ultimo ewes with Merino rams.

7. TYROL MOUNTAIN (Tyroler Bergschaf)

Sheep of this common Austrian breed were observed during the survey in flocks visited on the Sarntal Plateau near Asten, Bolzano Province (Fig. 12f). The breed is not listed by MASON (1967) as a Mediterranean sheep, but in his Dictionary of Livestock Breeds (1969), he relates it to the Val Senales (Val d'Ultimo). Owners in the area visited during the survey recognize the Tyrol Mountain and the Val d'Ultimo as distinctly different breeds.

Analysis of fleece samples. MASON described the Tyrol Mountain as a coarse-wooled, white-faced, lop-eared Alpine type (Fig. 12f). The five fleece samples taken in the present study in May (clearly after clipping) had a mean length of 43 mm. The overall diameter range was 18–13 μm. The modes ranged from 30 to 40 μm with a mean of 35.6 μm, and the means from 34.5 to 51.3 μm with an overall mean of 40.9 μm. Every sheep had medullated fibres, the proportion ranging from 1 percent to 41 percent with a mean of 20 percent. Each fleece was of hairy type, except for the least coarse one, which was classified as generalized medium.

The skin samples had a mean of 28.9 percent primary fibres, and 3.6 percent secondaries, with a medulla, and the mean S/P follicle ratio was 5.3.


The Lamon, an Alpine breed, is one of the few Italian breeds of which there are flocks in migration throughout the year. Today most Lamon are not migratory. Owner registration of the sheep traditionally is made in the town of Lamon in Belluno Province, but the seasonal range of the migratory flocks is within the provinces of Venezia and Udine. The breed is found also in Verona, Vicenza, Venezia, and Padova provinces and in the administrative region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Fig. 4 shows the seasonal routes of the four remaining migratory flocks of Lamon at the time of the survey (May, 1975). Data on seasonal location of the flocks and routes of migration were provided by Dott. S. BELLI in a personal communication (1975). Throughout the year the sheep are kept on open grazing, each flock of 400–800 sheep accompanied by three shepherds (family members), their dogs, and a few donkeys to carry the essentials for their migratory life. From November through January the flocks graze from place to place near the coast of the Gulf of Venice - three flocks near Palmanova and one near San Michele. In February the sheep are walked along secondary roads to the vicinity of Vivaro and Maniago where they graze on the natural vegetation. There they remain on rough grazing until June. Three of the four flocks are walked north to summer at alpine pastures in the Carnian Alps, and the other flock to Mt. Raut. The sheep return to the Vivaro-Maniago area in the autumn and remain there until the end of October, when they are walked to the coast near Palmanova and San Michele.

Description. As described by MASON (1967) and FEDERCONSORZI (1961), the Lamon is a large, lop-eared animal, yellow-white in colour (Fig. 11e). It is not unusual for the face and legs to be speckled brown or black. The average height of rams is 75–80 cm and ewes 70–75 cm. The tail is thin and hangs to below the hocks. Horns are absent.

Analysis of fleece samples. MASON quoted a wool quality of 46s with no kemp or medullated fibres. The five samples obtained in the present study in May had a mean length of 44 mm, compared with MASON's figure of 85 mm for a full fleece. These samples varied widely; one was like a British Down type, two were kempy, one was hairy, and one was fine and crimpy suggesting Merino influence.

The overall diameter range was from 18 to 170 μm, with means ranging from 29.7 μm (in the fine sample) to 57.8μm, and modes ranging from 30 μm to 44 μm. The average of the mean diameters was 43.5 μm, or 47.0 μm if the fine sample was omitted. This compares with a mean of 30μm given by MASON. The mean of the modes was 33.2 um and 34μm respectively. All samples except the fine one had medullated fibres, the mean proportion in these four being 27.5 percent. These samples were classified as “hairy” and the fine sample as a shortwool.

The mean proportion of medullated fibres in the skin was 30.0 percent including 8.8 percent fibres with a non-latticed medulla in the fine sample, which had an S/P follicle ratio value of less than the average of 4.1.

Performance. Income is derived from meat and wool. Weight: at birth, 4 kg; at 3 months, 25 kg; at 6 months, 40 kg; at 12 months 45–50 kg; (castrates 70–80 kg). Wool: adult rams yield about 5 kg in two shearings; ewes, 3.8 kg if lambing once per year, and 2.6 kg if lambing twice. Reproduction: the lambing rate is about 140 percent (MINISTERO DELL' AGRICOLTURA, 1942).

Adaptation. The Lamon retains characteristics typical of a fully migratory breed - hardiness and exceptional adaptability to widely different circumstances of climate, vegetation, and terrain. There is no artificial feeding. This is a breed which carries flesh and maintains itself under difficult circumstances.

Status. Vulnerable. Lamon in the four migratory flocks in 1975 numbered about 2 000. Early in this century some 60 000 Lamon were held in 80 migratory flocks (AMICO DEL POPOLO, 1975). Pastures formerly used in winter in the plains have been lost to the flocks because of development. But the main reason for decline of the migratory Lamon is the increasing difficulty in finding persons willing to accept the hard life of the shepherd (LICHTENBERGER, 1975; STERGER, 1971). In addition to the migratory flocks an unknown number of Lamon are maintained in sedentary or transhumant husbandry. Many, if not most, of these are crossbred.

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