West Stara Planina Sheep

Breeds and animal husbandry - Bulgaria

West Stara Planina sheep is an indigenous Bulgarian breed from the western area of the Stara Planina or Balkan Mountains. It belongs to the long, thin-tailed group of sheep breeds. The main area of distribution is in the Sofia, Vratsa and Pernik regions as well as the municipalities of Slivnitsa, Dragoman, Godech, Svoge, Botevgrad, Berkovitsa and Tran. The head has a straight profile line; it is wool-covered to the eye-line. The ears are erect. The ears, the eye area and the muzzle have a specific pigmentation (“splotch-faced”). The pigment is usually black, but it could also be shades of brown. The sheep has a rectangular, comparatively small body. The chest is deep and broad. The tail is thin, reaching the hock joint, but not reaching the ground. Up to 90% of these sheep have white wool, and the rest are colored. The face is white or pigmented, and the legs are white or on large pigmented spots. The male animals are usually hornless. Horned individuals are also found, but the horns are not massive. The wither height in both sexes is between 57 and 60 cm. The live body weight in ewes is 45-55 kg, while in rams is 70-80 kg. The West Stara Planina sheep is used for milk, wool and meat. Dairy productivity is 50-60 liters per lactation. This breed has greater fertility rate and wool yield than other indigenous sheep breeds. The West Stara Planina sheep was created over hundreds of years of traditional selection for a high fertility rate and good milk yield. Other important traits are their very good adaptation to the local weather conditions and higher resistance to some infections such as foot rot. Despite the fact that ingigenous breeds like the West Stara Planina sheep are well adapted to the local ecological conditions, many of them are being replaced by imported more productive breeds or vanishing due to genetic erosion. By 2011, the West Stara Planina sheep was represented by 1076 ewes and 31 rams in nine flocks under breeding control. Additionally, depopulation of the West Balkan area is one of the very serious threats for the agriculture in the region. A shepherd’s trade is low paid and considered unattractive work for younger people.