Heritage Network (Pro Patrimonio Montano):
Conservation of Ciuta Sheep - smallest sheep in the Alps !
The Ciuta sheep (pronounced tshiuta) still exists in a small northern Italian side valley of Valtellina, where it lives freely in woods and pastures for most of the year. The habitat is harsh and consists of meagre and steep pastures at altitudes between 800 - 2700 m above sea level. In winter, the animals are kept for 2-3 months in barns and fed with hay and dry leaves.
Striking about the Ciuta are the goat-like horns of the females, this occurs only in original breeds of sheep. Together with the Tavetsch sheep in the Grisons Oberland and the sheep of Montafon in Vorarlberg, the Ciuta could be a direct descendant of the extinct Peat sheep (Ovis aries palustris). It is interesting that all three breeds are referred to as "Tshiut" in the respective local language. Female Ciuta weigh only 30-35 kg and have a withers height of only 40-45 cm, they are the smallest breed of sheep of the Alpine region. The wool is of low quality and low productivity. The very low in-put and the use in extremely extensive farming needs to be taken into consideration when looking at their economic potential
For about 30 years, the farmers have tried to crossbreed with the large-framed Ber-gamasca sheep to make the breed more "productive". This did not succeed, but the pure Ciutas have almost disappeared. When the sheep were brought down from the Alp in autumn 2013 of the almost 500 sheep only just three dozen reasonably pure Ciutas could be identified. With the help of the local government veterinarian, it was possible for the network Pro Patrimonio Montano to buy 25 animals and thus to form four new breeding nuclei. Other breeders are participating on a private basis in the conservation programme. During winter additional sheep could be bought with farmers not participating in mountain grazing.
The project of the Ciuta sheep advances!
With support of the Veterinary Authority (ASL) of the Valtellina province and the regional animal breeding association (APA) the Ciuta conservation project could be presented at an orientation meeting on 3 April 2014 to the Valley dwellers of Val Masino. The project met with an unexpectedly great interest. All 85 seats in the large community hall were occupied, 34 more people had standing to participate. Following this, a great number of directly interested people signed up for participation in the project. Among them were people who offered an original animal still for sale, others who wanted to join in with their pristine animals in the "Ciuta Club" and those who wanted to take over a new nucleus group. Before Easter, seven new breeding groups were formed. Thus, the PPM own stock of breeding animals and the number of farmers involved in the project doubled (incl. five newly added private holders) quadrupled to 16. The provisional herd register of Pro Patrimonio Montano now includes about 60 own animals, the animals of the private holders still need to be evaluated and incorporated.
In Val Masino is now a huge enthusiasm for the conservation of the Ciutas. PPM were already offered the use of separate Alps. In seven agritourism farms the sheep can be seen. Other animals have been discovered on the Alto Lario, which will also be integrated into the project now. Yet there is still a long way to go. For the long-term security the stock has to be raised to over 200 animals and at least ten male breeding lines.
2018: Re-recognition of the breed
As of 15 February 2018, the Ciuta sheep are again officially recognized as an official Italian breed. This gives the breeders a boost, and they can now make of use various state benefits (breeding supervision, support programs, etc.). At the moment there are 250 breeding animals in the area, belongig to some twenty farmers who grow them between pastures and woods.
For current information
=> We are happy to count on your help !
For supporters and patrons:
All participants in the project are volunteers. Nevertheless always small and large expenses fall on. We are therefor delighted about every contribution. These are tax deductible in Switzerland and soon also in Italy.
Thanks for your contribution on one of the follwing bank accounts:
Assoc. "PatriMont Valtellina e Valchiavenna"
Banca Popolare di Sondrio,
Network Pro Patrimonio
- Breeding manager
Marco Paganoni, +39-327 672
Dott.vet. Silvana Cerasa