The Villnöss Brillenschaf.
Dominating the valleys of South Tyrol, the Dolomites mountains have long attracted foreigners in search for snow, steep slopes and high peaks. This UNESCO world heritage site is also home to a very distinctive yet largely unknown mountain survivor: The Villnoess Brillenschaf. Named after its characteristic black marks around the eyes, it is the oldest sheep breed in the South Tyrol region.
With its black markings on white fur, it had a hard time surviving the Third Reich, when it was eradicated for its seemingly “impure” features. However, most of all, the fall in the price of wool throughout the last decades left the Villnoess Monocle Sheep in danger of extinction. Many farmers in the region converted to dairy cows since the prices offered were higher. The remaining shepherds often exchanged the relatively small Monocle sheep for breeds with higher meat yields.
The survival of this breed was secured partly thanks to Oskar, Stefan and Kurt, two chefs and a shop owner, who dedicated themselves to bringing back the value of the Vilnoess Sheep.
The project Furchetta promotes and markets the high quality lamb meat with its own sheep logo. This new opportunity of market access provides the farmers again with an incentive for breeding this old variety. And since Furchetta assures the farmers a fixed price for their animals it helps especially young farmers to continue working their parent´s farms.
With more customers and even Michelin-starred chefs appreciating the quality of this meat, Furchetta recently expanded its project beyond the culinary world. A collaboration has been started with the local wool manufacturer Naturwoll. While the Brillenschaf wool and its products had a wide reputation for its extraordinary quality, the more than 250 year old wool enterprise has been struggling to survive over the last decades. In fact, the profession of the traditional wool-comber itself has been almost extinct, with only four businesses surviving in South Tyrol until today.
With Furchetta as its promoter , the Villnoess Brillenschaf can finally claim to have overcome extinction and will hopefully be seen again grazing throughout the Dolomite valleys.