Karabakh sheep

The Karabakh sheep is a breed of Caucasian fat-tailed sheep with coarse wool. These sheep are characterized by their high stamina and ability to graze year-round. Even in harsher periods of the year, they are satisfied with scarce pasture. They are also well adapted to moving from area to area with the change of the seasons to find the best pastures. Karabakh sheep have long legs and strong bones. Males may be either horned or polled, but females are usually polled. Males weigh 65-75 kg at maturity, and females 55-65 kg. Their coat colors range from red to white with a touch of brown. Rarely, they may be black or gray. The head and legs are both covered with short, thick brown hair.

Locally, milk from these sheep is used to produce cheeses. The cheeses are stored and aged in sheepskins that have been turned inside out, and so the natural rennet passes from the skin to the milk. This type of cheese is made for personal or family consumption, or small-scale sales in neighboring villages. Furthermore, the fat concentrated around the tails of Karabakh sheep is one of the main ingredients of plov, a local dish of rice mixed with vegetables and animal meat and fat. The meat of this breed is tender, mellow and low in cholesterol. The meat features heavily in national dishes, as the majority of Azerbaijan’s cuisine is based on lamb.

This breed gets its name from the Karabakh region, from where it was selected naturally overtime, and since spread to other districts of Azerbaijan. It is mainly kept by small-scale farmers for their personal or family consumption, and rarely in commercial farming operations. It is at risk of being lost, however, as it is gradually being replaced by imported breeds that produce higher yields of milk and meat, despite its long history and suitiability to local conditions.