Karayaka Sheep

Breeds and animal husbandry - Turkey

There is practically no information available about the history of this breed; however, it is likely to be indigenous to Anatolia (central Turkey). This breed is strongly identified with the village of Karayaka. This sheep has characteristic features unlike those of any breed outside Turkey. The breed is distributed along the eastern half of the Black Sea coast, especially in Ordu, Giresun, Samsun, Tokat and Sinop; it is also raised in Düzce, in the western Black Sea region. The quality of grazing in the distribution area is quite high, and the grazing season is longer than in most of the other regions. Flock size varies from 5 to 200 heads, and flocks are generally smaller in coastal areas and larger in the interior of the country. Most of the sheep go to the mountains in the summer in large communal flocks and return for the winter.   The Karayaka is a small-sized breed, measuring about 61 cm tall at the withers and having a body about 67 cm long. The tail is thin and long; some animals have a small fat deposit at the base of the tail. Rams generally have thick spiral horns; ewes are usually hornless. Wool is very coarse but used for traditional mattresses making in the area. There is a tuft of wool on the forehead. The Karayaka sheep’s body is usually white but about 10% of the animals are colored (black or brown). White animals have two types: Çakrak and Karagöz. In the Çakrak individuals, the head, ears, legs and tail are colored. The Karagöz, which is more numerous, has black marks around eyes and mouth and on the legs. Additionally, it is more resistant to cold than the Çakrak. The Çakrak is larger than the Karagöz.   Karayaka ewes produce 40-45 liters of milk during their 130-140 day lactation. Milk production ìis one of the lowest among the native breeds in the country, but the breed is relatively early maturing. Its meat quality is considered good; in this respect, the Karayaka comes second after Kivircik sheep breed. Karayaka has long been raised by pure breeding, largely due to geographical isolation. At present, there is no systematic crossbreeding involving this breed.   This breed is mainly traded for stock farming. Its meat is usually not sold on market but can be obtained through direct contact with breeders. There were approximately 1.7 million Karayaka sheep in Turkey in 1983, or 3.5% of the total sheep population of the country. Nowadays this number has decreased to 800,000 due to occasions of crossbreeding, a lack of support for farmers and farmers shifting to raising other, more profitable breeds. This breed’s milk yield is one of the lowest among the native breeds in the country and that is why it is not preferred by local breeders.