Raza Ovina Maellana, Oveja Maellana
The Maellana breed is an indigenous sheep breed that is traditionally reared along the river Ebro, a land including the comunidades autonomas of Aragon and Catalonia. This breed is still raised in the Bajo Aragón-Caspe and Matarraña comarcas; some animals are still present in the Gandesa comarca, in Catalonia. The Maellana sheep breeding area is characterized by a landscape including cereal, olive tree and almond tree fields; the climate is continental with very low temperatures in winter. This sheep breed has got some specific characteristics making it unique, such as its big head with a curved profile towards the outside and a long neck from which wattles hang. Maellana sheep are evenly white with quite long legs, and, in fact, they are very tall. These sheep have very little wool, especially around their heads, necks, bellies and limps. The female sheep weigh 55-65 kilos, while the male sheep’ weight is between 70 and 80 kilos. Neither male nor female animals have horns. This breed is almost exclusively reared for its meat, especially the youngest animals. The Maellana sheep meat is tender, tasty and healthy since it is not very fat, in fact it is largely appreciated. This meat is used to prepare some traditional dishes such as medejas and lechecillas: the latter are roulades made of lamb intestines, that are first cleansed and then rolled up and seasoned with spices and garlic, eventually grilled or fried. Whereas lechecillas are sweetbread, in other words the softest parts of the animal, being grilled. A breeders’ association was created at the beginning of the 1990s, to start recovering and promoting this breed, which has been endangered for many years and was also included in the “Official list of the animal breeds of Spain” published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Nutrition. The physical appearance and the hot temper of this breed, which is consequently hard to manage in a farm, made shepherds opt for other ones.