The Carsolina sheep is a breed that was historically raised on the Karst Plateau, between Karst and Istria. The Slovenian word for this area, “gmajna”, is the best word to describe the identity of this territory. This word is derived from the German word gemeinde, which means community, and refers to the collective ownership of pastures, which has characterised and still partly characterises livestock farming in this area, which is in many cases, still managed by the collective system known as “Comunelle”.
The Karst Plateau is a semi natural habitat composed of arid and semi-arid meadows on the calcareous soil that characterises the whole area. Born from the symbiosis between man and nature. Centuries of grazing sheep and goats has shaped the vegetation, stimulated the development of endemic species capable of surviving in the arid conditions and made fertile land with numerous outcropping rocks and very little water on the superficial layers. Unfortunately, this habitat is at risk of disappearing due to the almost total abandonment of pastoralism and traditional agricultural practices, which has led to overgrowth of the bushland and a growing environmental imbalance.
The Carsolina sheep (kraška ovca, in Slovenian) was a natural part of the Karst Plateau for centuries, it was a population that was raised by Karst shepherds until the Second World War. Flocks of sheep would graze on the Karst Plateau for 9 months of the year, where, between November and May, they survived on the limited pastures that were available, food was especially scarce in the coastal areas. In the summer, the mountain pastures were often used, all the way to the foot of Monte Nevoso.
The Carsolina sheep is a robust and very rustic breed, which is used to living on the limited resources that are made available by their natural environment. It is easily recognisable by the brown and blackish spots found on its skin. Its white fleece can also have some spots or can be completely black or brown. Its horns, when present, are an open spiral shape and their ears go sideways but will never hang down.
It is uncertain where this breed originated however it may have been created by crossbreeding between races from the Italian territory with ones from the Balkans, which were most likely brought to the Karst Plateau by the Ottomans. It is also known as the Istrian sheep and it belongs to an ethnic group of considerable interest, raised on a transnational territory between Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. In addition to the Karst Plateau, it is also present in the Cres and Lošinj archipelago.
The Carsolina sheep can produce around 120kg of milk per lactation. The pecorino cheeses that are made from this milk have a fatty texture and a grainy and crumbly consistency, and become quite sharp as they mature. Even the ricotta it makes is interesting, with a clear hint of pasture especially during the periods when the Karst territory offers its best flavours. The sheep also provide excellent meat for cooking and curing. The dish that best expresses the local gastronomic tradition is goulash, or meat cooked “under the bell”, which is buried under the embers, according to the Balkan custom.
Meat and cheese are available all year round
The three producers who give life to the Presidium practice wild and semi-wild breeding, guaranteeing the animals continuous grazing throughout the year. The aim of the project is to promote their products in the local market, increasing the appreciation for the quality of meats and cheeses obtained in compliance with strict regulations; emphasise the important role played by farmers in the conservation and development of the Karst ecosystem; stimulate the resumption of the breed reproducing to increase the number of heads; encourage interactions between breeders who are from all over the historical area; create a recognisable production and supply chain; make educational activities in which the Carsolina sheep is more visible and light can be brought to the positive interaction between people and the environment that it creates.
Production area: Karst Plateau in Trieste, Gorizia, Breg and Muggia.
Presidium supported by: the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia Region
Az. Agr. Antonič - Asino Berto
di Andrea Štoka
Duino Aurisina (TS)
Tel. +39 340 5847185
Consorzio boschivo di Padriciano
Gozna zadruga v Padričah
Jus Padriciano - Padriče
Via Padriciano, 40.
Tel. +39 040 226161
Società Agricola Kmetija DF
di Drago Vremec
Comunella - Jus Opicina - Opčine
Via degli Alpini, 103
Tel. +39 335 701 8306