Comparison of four European endangered red sheep based on fleece characteristics
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Patterns of wool variations found in modern sheep breeds may shed some light on the history of circum-Mediterranean migrations, which at present are still largely unknown. In this study, the characteristics of wool from five different local European breeds were investigated. Wool samples were taken from the following sheep breeds: Aranese, Roussillon Red, Castillonnais, Levant Red and Majorcan Red. Specimens were collected from 88 animals in different herds for each breed. The following sheep fleece characteristics were investigated: length of long-coarse, short-fine and kemp (medullated) fibres; their proportion within the staple; yield after scouring with isoalcohol; and fibre diameter. The amount of short-fine fibres was lower in the Levant Red and Majorcan Red breeds, with an inversely proportional amount of kemp fibres. Clean yield with isoalcohol was about 80 percent in all these breeds. Fleece characteristics offer a glimpse of possible morphologic relationships between the Levant Red and Majorcan Red that moreover exhibit a similarity in colour and a geographical proximity. Because very little is still known about the nature of the patterns of the fleece of Atlantic West and North African sheep, the importance of the African influence on existing European Mediterranean red sheep breeds remains to be clarified. A plausible hypothesis is that different influences would have left different traces, with a lesser impact on Pyrenean breeds.