The Kalarritiko sheep is kind of mountain sheep that is particularly well adapted to elevations over 1,300 meters. Its name comes from the mountain village Kalarrites, in Ioannina, where it was once widespread. The breed originated in the nearby village of Syrrako and from there it spread to Kalarrites, where, over time, its coloration changed. The shepherds claim that the Kalarritiko sheep derives from crossing the Epirus breed with the Comisana breed from Sicily, which was imported by traders from Syrrako in the mid-18th century, with the objective of obtaining a higher quantity and quality of wool. The Syrrako breeders used to have 120,000 animals, which grazed in the mountain meadows of Tzoumerka, Smolikas, and Agrafa in the summer months; during the winter, they would come down to the plains south of Epirus, near the neighbouring region of Thessaloniki.
The Kalarritiko is a small, mainly white in color but with a reddish mouth, ears, and legs. The mouth is a medium-large in size and the ears project horizontally from the head and have a slight downward curve. The rams have large and strong spiral horns, while the ewes do not have horns. This breed has a broad, deep chest with a high level of muscle development. The body is of a medium length and the legs and neck are short and strong. The tail is broad at the base and is covered with thick, uniform, soft wool.
Mating season usually begins in early June and lasts until early August. Most lambs are born between november and january, though some are born as late as mid-March. Lambs for slaughter are weaned for around 6 weeks and weigh between 12-12.5 kilograms, whereas lambs for breeding are nursed up to 2 months of age, when they reach a weight of about 15kg.
The Kalarritiko breed is well known for the exceptional quality of its meat. However, despite this recognition, it is on the brink of extinction. For this reason, the breeders receive incentives to preserve the breed. Indeed, the breeders play a vital role in the conservation of the breed, thanks to their close bonds with the animals and the fact that they refuse to introduce genetic material from other breeds. The original characteristics of the breed and its close connection with the people of the region where it is bred make the consrvation of the Kalarritiko sheep fundamental.