Sheep Breed Facts Apennine

The Apennine sheep breed is found in central Italy. There are roughly a quarter of a million of the breed spread over central and southern Italy in the Toscana, Emilia, Umbria, Arche and Abruzzi regions. It was established in the 1970s by crossing local breeds with other Italian or exotic breeds such as Bergamasca and Ile-de-France.

The Bergamasca originated in northern Italy in the Lombardy region. It is the foundation breed of the Lop-eared Alpine breeds. Other breeds belonging to this group are the Fabrianese, Zakynthos, Pavullese and the Perugian Lowland. Apart from its lop ears, distinguishing features are the lack of horns and the coarseness of the wool. Over 95,000 of this breed were in existence in 1993 but the population has diminished substantially to the point where they now number only a few thousand. It has a threefold purpose being raised for its milk, meat and wool. It is a white-fleeced breed and larger and heavier than the Apennine. Ewes may produce 250 kg of milk in a six month lactation with a 6% fat ratio.

The Ile de France is itself a cross between the English Leicester and the Rambouillet and was originally known as the Dishley Merino. The Ile de France is common throughout France and made its appearance in the United Kingdom in the 1970s. The breed is wide and thickset. It is a popular terminal sire for prime lamb production. Like the Apennine, it is a polled breed.

The Apennine breed also goes by the names of Appenninica, Bariscianese, Chietina Varzese and Perugina del piano. Although it is a medium wool breed, it is kept mainly for meat production.

Both rams and ewes are polled (hornless). It has inherited the slightly lopped ears of its Bergamasca ancestors. It is a large framed animal with mature rams reaching a weight of 78 kgs and ewes 56 kgs. Rams measure around 77 cms in height at the withers and ewes 69 cms.

The flocks are normally of small to medium size and are generally run on mixed farms in conjunction with other sources of income. Lambs may be slaughtered at 50 to 60 days yielding a live weight of 15 to 22 kg of lean meat. Wool production is a secondary source of income from the Apennine with medium-coarse fleeces weighing around 3.5 kg in rams and 2.5 kg in ewes.

The Apennine has been specifically adapted to suit the local regions. Unfortunately the population has declined substantially with less than 1,400 purebred animals remaining in 2007.