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.
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.
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.
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.
In the Basque Country, the lamb is primarily consumed at home at Easter, but only a limited amount of meat is sold locally.
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.
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.
Learn about the producers of this and other French Basque Country products in the follow video (in French, English and Italian).
Photos — Archivio Slow Food
Presidum supported by — European Leader and Feader projects, Aquitaine Region, Atlantic Pyrenees province and Arrapitz association.