Sheep

The Jezersko – Solčava sheep is one of the Slovenian autochthonous sorts comprising also the sheep of Bovec, the »Pramenka« of Bela Krajina and the »Pramenka« of Istria.

It’s OriginTrop ovc v hribih

The Jezersko – Solčava sheep belongs to the group of mountainous sheep of the Eastern Alps that originated in the mountain district of Kamnik-Savinja, in the Karavanke Mountains and in the Alps of Kamnik. As these hilly and mountainous territories are high above sea level, the yearly precipitate is relatively rich and the average temperatures are low. All these natural factors reflect in relatively short period of vegetation, which played a very important part in the nascent and formative stage of this breed of sheep.

It is supposed that in the Eastern Alps, the mountainous sheep developed from the ancient original domestic sheep. It was a small, tough and white sheep, distinguished for its exceptional fertility, capable to breed throughout the year. The Jezersko – Solčava sort of sheep was obtained by the crossbreeding of the original sheep of the Jezersko – Solčava region with sorts of the sheep of Bergamo and Padua.

From the hereditary point of view it can be said that the Jezersko – Solčava sheep has got its large body and characteristic nasal bone after the Bergamo sheep, while the crossbreeding with the Padua sheep has improved the quality of its wool, yet it has kept its exceptional fertility and toughness.

Data concerning the origin of the Jezersko – Sočcava breed of sheep are summarized from the article of Primož Muri, The origin and the Development of the Jezersko – SolcavaBreed of Sheep (1998).

The Name

The breed was named after the localities of Jezersko and Solčava, where numerous well organized local farmers had been keeping on breeding this sort of sheep. In the second half of the 19th century they won quite a few medals at International Exhibitions of livestock in Paris, which proved the excellent breeding.

In this way, the Jezersko – Solčava breed of sheep became known also beyond the place of its origin. At that time, breeders from Tyrol and Bavaria used to buy Jezersko – Solčava breeding rams. Our sheep was recognized as “Seelaender” or “Kaerntner Schaf”.

The step towards ‘merinoization’ for better wool was wrong

Already in the first half of the 18th century, some breeders who wished to improve the quality of the wool, brought to our country the rams of the merino sort. Supposedly the attempt at ‘merinoization’ didn’t have an important effect on domestic sheep.

After 1962 there was another attempt at ‘merinoization’, which caused worsening of the fertility and lessening of toughness. Experts were critical about the attempt at ‘merinoization’ in the Alpine area, considering it an entirely wrong step, because the merino sheep with their fleece needed dry climate, and that was not the case in the Slovene Alpine area, the home of the »Jezersko-Solčava« sort of sheep. Breeding the sheep with thick and dense fleece in damp climate is indeed impossible. Fortunately, the majority of breeders in the Jezersko and Solčava region rejected the attempts at ‘merinoization’.

Today the »Jezersko-Solčava« breed of sheep is extended throughout entire Slovenia, Austrian Carinthia, while several flocks are to be found also elsewhere in Europe. In Slovenia we insist on purebred sheep, but for the economic reasons it can also crossbreed with other sorts.

Characteristics and Description of the Jezersko-Solčava Sheep

Ovce volnaThe »Jezersko-Solčava« sheep belongs to the breed of hornless longicaudate white sheep. Its characteristic head is rather big and not woolly, with a distinctive bulging nasal line and long, hanging ears.

In the past these sheep were supposed to have a characteristic black patch around the eyes (glasses or teardrop); later on the majority of breeders selected the sheep without that mark. The breeders today are again aware of the meaning of the mark as an important part of recognizability of the »Jezersko-Solčava« sheep. Our Austrian neighbors in Carinthia where the »Jezersko-Solčava« sheep is called Kaerntner Brillenschaf – meaning očalarka or specs-wearing sheep – are well aware of this.

Females are about 25 inches tall, males are four inches taller. Females weigh between 120 and 160 pounds, while rams are between 160 and 200 pounds, however, this depends on the kind of food they get. They have firm legs, a long and strong muscular back. The sheep is well adapted to pasture in the mountainous pasture-grounds.

For the most part, sheep are being sheared twice a year, in April and in October, whereby the breeders get about 4 pounds of wool per sheep. In the past, when wool represented an important and economically interesting product of sheep-breeding, sheep were sheared even three times a year.

A significant feature of the Jezersko – Solčava breed of sheep is their all year round fertility, which is not characteristic for most of the other breeds. When properly kept, most of them are in heat even during the period of lactation, although with some of the sheep lactation anestrus* can be detected, especially in the spring-time.

*anestrus – a period of sexual inactivity in nonhuman mammals

The seasons may also have a partial influence on the size of the brood, which means the spring broods are usually larger than autumnal. The frequency of twins depending as well on nourishment comes to 10-50%. An average bearing amounts to 1.5 – 1.8 lambkins per year. The above mentioned characteristics of the Jezersko – Solčava breed of sheep are of great importance for economic cross-breeding, since they bring about the possibility of all the year round supply of fresh lamb’s meat.

THE JEZERSKO – SOLČAVA SHEEP

We are proud of our Jezersko – Solčava sheep which is an autochthonous Slovene breed.

In the past, sheep breeding in the alpine places of Jezersko and Solčava was very well organized and used to be the preoccupation of the majority of population. Also today, by breeding brood-rams, we seek the preservation of its superior qualities:

  • Fertility – all the year round fertility represents its main asset;
  • Vitality and adaption to our environment – vigorous stature and strong long legs enables them to easily overcome the steepness of the mountainous pastures;
  • Succulent lamb-meat and quality wool – they are being sheared in spring and in autumn, yielding about 4 pounds of wool a year.

Our sheep are beautiful; the majority of them are white, some are also darker. There are characteristic »spectacles« or »tear-drops« to be found around their eyes. The Jezersko – Solčava sheep makes part of the Slovenian natural and cultural heritage. We gladly protect and preserve it.