The sheep which produce wool for
LEBARCA blankets are unique. They are small indigenous breeds from the
Rhodope and Pirin mountains of Eastern Europe. These sheep produce long
and heavy fiber wool which makes a very soft and strong product with
more texture and interest than the common merino wool. There are more
than 20 distinct breeds of sheep in this area with almost as many
colors. Colors range from pure white to copper-red, warm browns, grays,
and black. Unfortunately many of these breeds are endangered and
efforts to protect them are not very successful at this time. I hope
providing a market for wool from these sheep will make some small
difference in these efforts.
One of the
most interesting (and very rare) breeds is Karakachan. This word also
describes a people as well as a breed of sheep, sheep-dog and horse.
All are very strong and hardy, rarely sick, and can survive on food
which others would distain. Karakachan people were pastoral people who
lived mostly outside. They would take their sheep to the mountains of
Bulgaria in summers and then to Greece in winters. This custom is still
in practice today, however rare. Karakachan sheep are prized for their
long fine wool, and their hardy constitution. Karakachan dogs are
rumored to have bred with wolves and are very protective of their
sheep. These dogs have helped the indigenous wolf of Eastern Europe to
survive by protecting the sheep so well that shepherds have no reason
to kill them. The day I went to find these sheep, I was constantly
warned by the shepherds to be careful of their dogs.
I was very
lucky to find a guide to take me to find these shepherds and their
flocks because most live high in the mountains in very remote places.
It was truly like stepping back in time to see a culture which can
endure such a harsh climate and life-style as these shepherds and their