Carneiro o borrego
The carneiro breed is a large sheep that is hearty and resistant. Both males and female have spiral horns and long legs that are quite strong. Thanks to a store of fat found in the thick, fatty plaque at the base of their tails the carneiro is able to survive in hostile environments that are very hot and with little to eat, and in fact they forage on grasses and bushes. The mantle on the body is short, so that it is also known as the “sheep with no wool”, and is of several colors: brown, black, and brown and white patches. This animal is particularly well adapted to the semi-desert conditions in southern Angola and Namibia. It is incredibly resistant, with the ability to cross enormous distances and has a high tolerance to illnesses and parasites. The sheep live in the open and are very rarely held in pens over night.
This breed, which derives from a cross between the Damara and local breeds of sheep in order to retain its rusticity and strength, is raised by the semi-nomadic Cavelocamue and Bibala ethnic tribes. Originally from eastern Asia, the Damara breed was imported to the region by nomadic tribes who crossed Africa and was raised in the semi-desert regions of Angola and Namibia thanks to its proverbial rustic nature. The historic production area is Namibe Province (which includes Namibe, Cunene, the area south of Huíla and Cuando Cunbango) and northern Namibia. The carneiro breed is closely tied to the Mucubal, Muhimba, Sjimba and Herero indigenous communities.
It is difficult to estimate the number of heads raised each year. This is because the sheep are not counted, but there is also a strong reticence on the part of the tribes to freely give information on their livestock. Carneiro sheep are used for personal consumption and, at times, are traded for flour, soap, alcoholic beverages and goods that the tribes do not produce themselves. Sometimes the sheep are sold in informal markets, and less frequently in formal ones, where they are slaughtered and butchered. This breed is the main source of protein for the communities.
A typical recipe that involves carneiro is known as Jinginga, a typical dish that is prepared on important occasions like baptisms, anniversaries and weddings, or during the weekend when the whole family eats together. The main ingredient in this recipe is the animal’s innards which are washed in hot water, cut into small pieces and rolled with other chopped pieces of liver, lungs and kidneys. This is cooked with garlic, lemon, tomatoes, bay leaves and gindungo (a spicy sauce) with a bit of oil. The meat is added to this mixture and is left to cook on low heat for quite a long time. Roughly ten minutes before removing from the heat, the animal’s blood is added. This breed of sheep is at risk of extinction because the very same indigenous ethnic tribes are in danger, and they are the last people to raise the carneiro sheep.