Valais Blacknose sheep
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|Other names||Walliser Schwarznasenschaf|
|Country of origin||Switzerland|
|Use||dual-purpose, meat and wool|
The Valais Blacknose, German: 'Walliser Schwarznasenschaf', is a breed of domestic sheep originating in the Valais region of Switzerland. It is a dual-purpose breed, raised both for meat and for wool.
There are indications that the Valais black sheep’s history goes back as far as to 15th century. The earliest mention of a black-nosed sheep appeared around year 1400. But it wasn’t until 1962, that this breed was recognised as a separate one. The blacknose sheep belongs to the Northern Short Tailed group. The Valais black faced sheep are believed to be forefathers of other multi-coloured breeds, which are living on lands along trading routes used by the Norsemen a thousand years ago.
As the name itself suggests, the Valais Blacknose is a white sheep with black nose. Specifically, the black colour covers the centre of their head, going from nose up to eyes rims – also black. Their ears are black-coloured all their way up to its head. For that reason, they are sometimes called white sheep with black faces or black-faced sheep – rather than black-nose ones – which is a bit more appropriate, considering the extent of a black cover. Black spots can be find on their ankles, knees, bumps. Their hooves are fully black. Females tend to have tail spot, but not too large. This feature, however, is not tolerated among males. Rest of their coat is white and light woolly. The Valais sheep’s coat is unique, unmistakable and make up for their amusing look. The breed is horned with both rams and ewes having spiral or helical-shaped horns. The blacknose sheep is a coarsewooled breed, which means their coat is thick. What is also quite characteristic of them is the fact that wool covers evenly their body, legs and head.
Details of the appearance
The Swiss Valais Blacknose sheep is a large-sized breed with a robust and symmetrical physique. Mature females, from two years old up, weigh between 70 and 90 kilo, whereas male – in range of 80 and 125 kilo. Their average body height is between 75 and 83 cm for rams and between 72 and 78 cm for ewes. The Valais Blackfaced have a short, muscled neck, a wide forehead and mouth, medium-size ears and a Roman nose. Horns are separated, growing horizontally and symmetrically. Occasional black patches may appear on horns. Their chest is broad, shoulders close-fitting, withers wide and closed in. The black faced sheep have a long, broad and straight back, a wide loin, a medium-sized belly, a well-muscled mace and a good spring of ribs. Their front legs are positioned widely. Limbs are strong, not bow-shaped, not knock-kneed and not cow-hocked. They have mean ankle angulation and stocky, tough restraints. In general, those animals are strong, thanks in part to their solid bone structure, and very hardy. In terms of their wool, its staple length is up to 10 cm, growing 5-6 months. Sheep should be shorn twice a year. Black hair can be scattered among a white neck, however among males of up to 18 months this feature is a reason for exclusion. Without any striking colour differentiation and with both rams and ewes growing horns, it is almost impossible to distinguish males from females.
The Blacknose sheep feels best in its native climate of Switzerland. It adapted very well to the harsh conditions of living in the high mountains, having an ability to graze even on the stoniest and the steepest slopes. Extreme weather conditions, which are often the case in the Valais alpine pastures, don’t faze them. In their natural environment of Switzerland, they spend the summertime high up in the mountains and come down off the hill to the lower grounds for the winter months.
The Valais black faced sheep is a dual-purpose breed, raised for both its wool and meat. However, most of breeders raise the Valais mainly with the aim of meat production as it is quite profitable with sheep being large-sized. When it comes to their wool, it is best suitable for carpets or felting. The black-faced sheep are friendly, easily-tamed and have peaceful nature. They are totally in for a cuddle and can also be lead-trained without much effort. Such traits, together with their fluffy and original appearance, have gained them popularity as an ideal pet sheep.
- Daniele Bigi, Alessio Zanon (2008). Atlante delle razze autoctone: Bovini, equini, ovicaprini, suini allevati in Italia (in Italian). Milan: Edagricole. ISBN 9788850652594. p. 280–281.
- Breed data sheet: Walliser Schwarznasenschaf/Switzerland. Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed September 2013.
- Valerie Porter, Lawrence Alderson, Stephen J.G. Hall, D. Phillip Sponenberg, Mason's World Encyclopedia of Livestock Breeds and Breeding, 2 Volume Pack, 03 September 2017
- Valais Blacknose Sheep Cheshire, Valais Sheep Breed information, 03 September 2017
- Valais Blacknose Sheep Society UK, Valais Sheep Breed information, 03 September 2017
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