France
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Basque Pyrenees Mountain Cheeses, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

The Manex Tête Noire sheep, nicknamed “the conquering princess of the Basque mountains,” is the most rustic of the four breeds found in the French Basque Country.

Manex Tête Noire Lamb, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste
Manex Tête Noire Lamb, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

Apart from the characteristic black legs and face, the sheep’s whole body is entirely covered in a thick coat of wool and the rams have spiralling horns.

Manex Tête Noire Lamb, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

The Manex Tête Noire breed is in decline because even though it is very well suited to mountain pasturing, it is less productive than other local breeds. In the 1980s there were 220,000 head, and today only 85,000 remain.

Manex Tête Noire Lamb, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste
Manex Tête Noire Lamb, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

This medium-sized breed is farmed primarily for its milk, which is used in cheese making (specifically for pecorino cheeses). For the small-scale sheep farmers, however, the sale of the lambs provides an important supplement to the family income.

Manex Tête Noire Lamb, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

In the Basque Country, the lamb is primarily consumed at home at Easter, but only a limited amount of meat is sold locally.

Manex Tête Noire Lamb, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

The lambs grow up in an unspoiled environment and feed only on their mothers’ milk. The lambs live in an unspoiled environment and are an excellent representative of the Basque gastronomy.

Manex Tête Noire Lamb, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

The farmers depend heavily on export to Spain, where demand for the lambs goes up around Christmas.

To save it, it will be necessary to guarantee a more secure—and therefore local—market, and more profitable prices. It is the Presidium goal.

Manex Tête Noire Lamb, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste
Manex Tête Noire Lamb, Slow Food, 2015, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

Learn about the producers of this and other French Basque Country products in the follow video (in French, English and Italian).

Credits: Story

Photos  — Archivio Slow Food 
Presidum supported by — European Leader and Feader projects, Aquitaine Region, Atlantic Pyrenees province and Arrapitz association.  

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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