Species profile - Zackelschaf (Zackel Sheep)

The Zackel Sheep is a small to medium-sized, robust, hardy, very undemanding, lively but shy sheep in two colour varieties - white and black. The head is remarkably slim, the eyes large, the forehead is woolly, however, the special characteristic of the Hungarian Zackel Sheep are the helical (corkscrew-like) twisted horns. In the horns of the white variety there are one or two dark stripes, in the black variety both horns and claws are black. The length of the horns is up to 1 m in rams and about half that in females. The dense fleece protects the animals from the cold in winter and from overheating in summer. Zackel Sheep belong to the mixed-wool breeds and are shorn once a year.

The Zackel Sheep is the last surviving breed of sheep with helical horns. The total population amounts only to an estimated 3,500 individuals. The extremely hardy sheep were originally bred for the milk and meat supply of the Hungarian nomads. In addition to the use of the meat, the use of the coarse wool for the production of weather-resistant clothing was once of great importance. The shaggy dense fur is impermeable to water and enables the animals to endure temperatures between -20°C and +40°C. Their frugality in feed selection makes them particularly suitable for use even on thinned out pastures and very undemanding to farm.

As a robust and hardy breed, Zackel Sheep have exceptionally hard and insensitive claws as well as excellent adaptability to regional climate and feeding conditions. The lambs are very robust and are usually born outdoors in January/February. There are hardly any problems or failures at birth due to the good physique of the sheep. Basically, they are strictly seasonal and usually give birth to only one young per year.

Key data

  • Status: Very rare old breed of sheep, highly endangered
  • Size: 70 - 85 cm (w), 70 - 90 cm (m)
  • Weight: 45 - 75 kg (w), 65 - 85 kg (m)
  • Shearing: once a year
  • Oestrus cycle: seasonal
  • Suitability: extensive husbandry, landscape management