The Pagliarola sheep is an Italian Apennine breed originating in the foothills of Molise and Abruzzo. The name “Pagliarola” is derived from their diet during winter which is mainly based on wheat straw.
The Pagliarola sheep has a slightly convex nose profile, low ears of medium length and a uniform white fleece. The sheep is of medium-large size. The Pagliarola sheep is a very rustic and frugal animal, which either feeds on straw or what it finds in the snow covered pastures.
In Abruzzo, the breeding of the Pagliarola variety was widespread in the Gran Sasso area where it was bred together with the Gentile di Puglia. When the winter season began, only the Pagliarola sheep remained in the high pastures, as they did not travel down to the plains with the shepherds who would migrate.
This sheep has an average production of meat and produces very little milk; in the past it was also bred for its wool, which is suitable for making coarse fabrics.
The most interesting dairy product that is produced with its milk is fresh ricotta, in which the aromas and flavours of the milk of sheep that are fed on pasture can be captured. Among the traditional products that were made, which are now limited to self-production/consumption, it is possible to mention the micischia (or muscisca): a specialty that is commonly found in the nearby Gargano area, consisting of lean sheep meat cut into strips, which is then dried and preserved in salt for more than a year and sometimes smoked.
Until a few years ago there were only a few heads of this sheep breed, reared in Santo Stefano di Sessannio or Barisciano. Since 2009, projects have been launched within the protected area of Gran Sasso with the aim of preserving the livestock biodiversity of this area. These projects see the involvement of local breeders, who try to demonstrate how even the breeds that are historically linked to the territory can have great potential even if they are considered less productive.
The research activities necessary for the reporting of this product in the Ark of Taste online catalogue were financed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, the General Directorate of the Tertiary Sector and Corporate Social Responsibility – notice n° 1/2018 “Slow Food in action: communities protagonists of change”, pursuant to Article 72 of the Tertiary Sector Code, referred to in Legislative Decree No. 117/2017.