Sofia Sheep

Breeds and animal husbandry - Bulgaria

The Sofia sheep (Sofii╠ćska ovtsa), also known as the Elin-Pelin sheep, is an indigenous Bulgarian breed. It belongs to the group of long, thin-tailed sheep breeds. The main area of distribution is the Sofia plain, the regions of Elin Pelin, Novi Han, Ravno Pole, Ivanyane, Vrazhdebna and surrounding areas. The sheep are comparatively large in size, with an elongated body and a narrow and deep chest. The head is white with medium-sized ears, rarely covered with wool to eye-line; the profile is slightly projecting. The hooves are strong. The rams and ewes are hornless, but some individuals may be horned. The tail is covered with wool and reaches to the hock joint. The fleece is generally white, and the face is white, sometimes with pigmented spots around the eyes, the muzzle, on the ears and legs. There is a breed-specific white triangle on the muzzle. That is why the locals called the breed "four-eyes" in the past. The legs are white with colored spots. The wither height of both sexes of Sofia sheep averages 60 cm. The live body weight in ewes is 50-65 kg, while in rams it is 90-100 kg. Sofia sheep are bred is for milk, wool and meat. Dairy productivity is 100-140 liters milking yield per year. This breed is larger than the other indigenous sheep breeds (like Breznik and West Balkan) spread in Western Bulgaria. That, along with their good fertility rate and diary productivity, is the reason why this breed is popular than some other native breeds among farmers. The breed was developed over years in the lowland and Balkan foothills through traditional selection for a good milk yield and high fertility rate of the ewes, as well as the overall live body weight and the quality of the wool. Today, the lambs are sold for meat, while ewes are kept for milk and wool production. Despite the fact the Sofia sheep is well adapted to the local ecological conditions, this breed is bing replaced by imported, more productive breeds and vanishing due to genetic erosion. According to The Executive Agency on Selection and Reproduction in Animal Breeding in Bulgaria, in 2011 there were just 1380 ewes and 58 rams in twelve flocks under breeding control.