Monday, 2 August 2021

Black sheep

Welcome to the Balkans, where being a "black sheep" means being normal...Well not really, but we are all a bit mad...These are Karakachan sheep, one of the most primitive, coarse wool sheep in Southern Europe and one of the breeds closest to the European mouflon (wild sheep)


The Karakachan sheep is small with long brown/black wool. It is quite hardy, resistant to disease, and capable of surviving severe mountainous terrains and conditions. It is well adopted to long treks on high mountain trails...

This, once a predominant sheep breed in the Balkans, is  unfortunately under threat of extinction. According to the data from 2005, there were around 2000 animals left in Bulgaria, around 1000 in Greece, few hundred in Macedonia, and this tiny flock on Mt. ńĆemernik in Serbia



This sheep breed is named after Karakachani (Sarakatsani), an ethnic Greek population subgroup who were traditionally transhumant shepherds, native to Greece, but also found in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and Serbia. 




They lived in the southern Balkan highlands in round huts covered with hay, like these ones reconstructed in the Karakachani settlement folk park in Zagorochoria, Greece



Every shepherd needs sheep dogs. And Karakachani had their own breed of sheep dogs, known today of course as Karakachan dogs. These are large powerful sheep dogs which will not hesitate to attack wolves or bears if they threaten their flock or their owner...



Transhumance shepherds cross huge distances during their seasonal migrations. They bring with them everything they might need during their stay in the highlands. And for that Karakachani used the horses they bred themselves, which are now classified as separate Karakachan breed


The Karakachan horses are irreplaceable in the mountains. They are steady on foot, have great stamina and have nice temperament. They are extremely strong, and can cary large weight on their backs, and don't require special winter housing or feeding...

But just like the Karakachan sheep, they are also under threat of extinction. The census made in 2002, registered only 362 animals of this breed...

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