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About the Sheep
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About the Sheep

The sheep which produce wool for LEBARCA blankets are unique. They are small indigenous breeds from the Rhodope and Pirin mountains of Eastern Europe. These sheep produce long and heavy fiber wool which makes a very soft and strong product with more texture and interest than the common merino wool. There are more than 20 distinct breeds of sheep in this area with almost as many colors. Colors range from pure white to copper-red, warm browns, grays, and black. Unfortunately many of these breeds are endangered and efforts to protect them are not very successful at this time. I hope providing a market for wool from these sheep will make some small difference in these efforts.

One of the most interesting (and very rare) breeds is Karakachan. This word also describes a people as well as a breed of sheep, sheep-dog and horse. All are very strong and hardy, rarely sick, and can survive on food which others would distain. Karakachan people were pastoral people who lived mostly outside. They would take their sheep to the mountains of Bulgaria in summers and then to Greece in winters. This custom is still in practice today, however rare. Karakachan sheep are prized for their long fine wool, and their hardy constitution. Karakachan dogs are rumored to have bred with wolves and are very protective of their sheep. These dogs have helped the indigenous wolf of Eastern Europe to survive by protecting the sheep so well that shepherds have no reason to kill them. The day I went to find these sheep, I was constantly warned by the shepherds to be careful of their dogs.

I was very lucky to find a guide to take me to find these shepherds and their flocks because most live high in the mountains in very remote places. It was truly like stepping back in time to see a culture which can endure such a harsh climate and life-style as these shepherds and their families.