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Tsigai is a native sheep species in Hungary.
The breed originates from Asia Minor. It came to Hungary at the end of the 18th century through Balkans and Romania, these former Hungarian names prove the fact: Zombori sheep, Oláh sheep but they called it berke too (nowadays they call it Cigája). Its name originates from the Romanian þigáie word. It has become widely spread because people bred it for three different things: its flesh, its milk and its soft wool. Lots of Transylvanian farmers changed their ordinary sheep to Tsigai, because people bought its wool much more. Although it was a mountain sheep it adapted to lowlands really fast. Most of the Tsigais were kept between the Danube and the Tisza, and this is where they remained breed them after the I. World War too. In Hungary it's not an endangered species but they are living in small stocks. In Moldova it is the leading breed of sheep, and it is also important in Romania and Slovakia.
Nowadays there are two different breeds of tsigai. The male Tsigai can grow horns, but this is rare. Generally the sheep has long dangling ears, white wool with some black thread, and its legs and head are black or dark brown. Its skin is dark and the body parts which are covered with keratin are dark grey. The tsigai only lambs once a year, and rarely bears twins.
"Old" or Native Tsigai
It's useful for three things: its milk, its meat and its wool, which is used in textile industry. The male tsigai's shoulder height is 75–80 cm and the female's is 60–65 cm. It is milked for 5–6 months and it yields 40-60 liter of milk. The lambs' colour is sandy grey. In the Körös-Maros National Park and in private breeders' farms there are around 10,000 females and 50 males in Hungary.
This kind of tsigai is bred for its milk. Its body size is much bigger than the "Old" tsigai. The male's shoulder height is 90–100 cm and the female's is 75–80 cm. In the milking period it yields 110-120 litres of milk. Lambs are born with black fleece. From 1999 it has been recorded as a separate breed, and it has been a protected breed since 2008.
Történelmi állatfajták enciklopédiája(encyclopedia book) by János Tőzsér, Sándor Bedő. Released by Mezőgazda kiadó, Budapest, 2003