The Amiatina or Amiata sheep is a sheep (Ovis aries Linnaeus, 1758) from central and southern Tuscany, with a triple aptitude, although more specialized in meat production.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Species O. aries,
Geographical and Areal Distribution –
The Amiata Sheep is a sedentary sheep breed, a direct descendant of the so-called “Tuscan Common Sheep”, “Nostrale” or “Vissana” widely present in central or southern Tuscany in the first half of the 19th century.
The breed has diversified in the southern area of Tuscany between the provinces of Grosseto and Siena, in particular on Monte Amiata, in the municipalities of Arcidosso, Roccalbegna and Castell’Azzara and in the Crete Senesi area including the municipalities of Asciano, Buonconvento, Monteroni d’Arbia, Rapolano Terme, San Giovanni d’Asso and Trequanda. Its area of diffusion coincides with that of origin.
Origins and History –
The Amiata sheep is a “forgotten” sheep breed in the last half century and still has no registration in the registry; this breed, known as Amiatina or, more correctly, “sheep from Amiata and the Crete Senesi” is a typical triple-purpose breed: milk, meat and wool. It is a descendant of the so-called “Common Tuscan Sheep”.
The Amiata sheep belongs to the large Apennine family, characterized by good aptitude for the production of wool and milk, of excellent quality for cheese-making. Even the meat of lambs is traditionally considered to be of excellent quality and that of breeding animals at the end of their career was once used for the preparation of local cured meat products.
This breed was born from an ancient fusion between the so-called Tuscan Common Sheep or Vissana, present in permanent farms in central Tuscany and merinized sheep coming from the Maremma transhumant flocks (Spanish Bastarda breed); in the 1950s it represented the dominant indigenous genetic type in the area; it was described as medium in size with a light skeleton, a head with a rectilinear profile that tended to be sheepish; hornless females and almost all horned males; semi-closed fleece with conical tufts of dirty white colour, rarely with black or brown spots. The products of milk transformation were considered particularly valuable and, in particular, the real pecorino from the Crete Senesi, with lamb or kid rennet and the cacio fiore, with vegetable rennet (maceration liquid from wild thistle flowers, locally called presura ).
Subsequently, at the beginning of the 20th century, this sheep population was divided into two ecotypes, one in the Creti Senesi and the northern slope of Monte Amiata, simply called Senese sheep, larger in size but less productive, and one of smaller size, strongly merinized and more productive in all and three attitudes, characteristic of Monte Amiata and in particular of Monte Labbro called Amiata sheep or Amiatina. Subsequent exchanges of breeders between the two ecotypes led to the reconstitution around the middle of the last century of a relatively homogeneous population called the Amiata sheep.
This breed is considered on the verge of extinction. Some indications coming from the APA of Siena and Grosseto and from the Genomamiata association indicated, at the beginning of the 2000s, a number limited to a few hundred animals. The study path launched jointly by the Department of Zootechnical Sciences of the University of Florence and the ConSDABI of Benevento involved an initial census and a verification of the adherence to the morphological standards of the identified animals. Thus, 18 farms were registered, with a total population of 1282 sheep and 36 rams, with morphological characteristics corresponding to the standards of the ancient population, on which a genetic and production characterization was begun. From the point of view of general morphology, the modern population of Amiata and Crete Senesi sheep seems very similar to the gentler Amiata sheep and, as far as feeding behavior is concerned, the predilection for grazing herbaceous species seems to be preserved suffruticose or the browsing of woody shrubs: artemisia, broom, juniper (berries), helichrysum, thyme, sage, rosemary, various species of Rosaceae, all responsible for the excellent and characteristic aroma of traditional cheeses: pecorino delle crete and cacio-fiore.
The Amiata Sheep is a medium-sized sheep breed, with an average height at the withers of 73.8 cm for males and 70.6 cm for females.
It has a relatively small head, characterized by a straight or slightly round profile.
The ears are relatively short and carried laterally.
In males there is a variable presence of horns, detected in 62% of rams, 13% have only horny outlines and the remaining 25% are horned. 89% of the females are horned, 7% have buds and the remaining 4% are horned.
The neck is of medium length, relatively thin, well attached.
The trunk is relatively long and well proportioned, straight.
The limbs are solid and relatively long.
It has a white, semi-closed fleece with conical curls.
The skin has a slightly pink pigmentation and is elastic.
Among the zoognostic defects, we report the presence of dark spots on the skin and fleece which preclude registration in the Registry.
Productive attitude –
The Amiata sheep is a sheep breed which, although originally triple-purpose, is currently more suitable for meat production. In fact, while not neglecting the characteristics of resistance, rusticity and the productive aptitudes of milk and wool, the current direction for improvement is to enhance meat production, trying among other things to increase prolificacy.
The average weight of the lambs at 30 days is approximately 10-12 kg.
As regards milk, there is an indicative production of approximately 75-90 kg in 120 days with a cheese yield of approximately 20%; linked to the transformation of matured cacio fiore and/or pecorino.
For wool production it is reported that the average production of dirt is 2.4 kg for males and 1.2 kg for females.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Balasini Dialma, 2001. Applied zootechnics. Sheep and goats. Sheep and goats. For technical and professional institutes, Caledrini Edagricole, Bologna.
– Daniele Bigi, Alessio Zanon, 2010. Atlas of native breeds. Cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs raised in Italy, Edagricole-New Business Media, Bologna.