Drenthe Heath Sheep Netherlands
The Drenthe Heath Sheep (Drentse Heideschaap), magnificently horned, multi-colored sheep, are the oldest sheep breed in The Netherlands and in all continental Western Europe, probably introduced by immigrants from France in 4000 BC. The breed is very rustic; and can stay outside the whole year. It thrives on poor, sandy soils such as the heathlands in the Province of Drenthe in the northeastern part of the Netherlands.
Heathland developed through the impoverishment of the sandy soils which are a heritage of Ice Age glaciers. With the arrival of chemical fertilizers sheep which always maintained the heathlands became obsolete and it nearly led to their extinction. Fortunately, in 1948 a herd was founded in the village of Ruinen, and efforts began to save the breed.
Thanks to the efforts of the Dutch Rare Breeds Foundation (Stichting Zeldzame Huisdierrassen -SZH) and the creation of the Association of Drentse Heideschaap Breeders in 1985, the future looks better now as the breed is appreciated for conservation and biodiversity of the heathlands. Due to a strict government anti-scrapie policy which rigidly allows only a handful of genetically “clean” rams for breeding the number of animals is still very small (1,800 registered animals).
The Drenthse Heideschaap is a relatively small multi-colored sheep reaching just 60 cm average height. It is the only Dutch sheep with horns; generally spiral formed in the rams and stick formed in the ewes. A ewe produces one lamb per year, although sometimes two if well fed. The quality of its meat is becoming appreciated for its naturally fragrant taste, a result of the grazing on heathlands and fresh meadows. A new marketing channel has been developed together with a local butcher and lambs from three organic herds. The lamb meat is sold fresh in organic markets and a line of lamb sausages has also been developed.
The Presidium was formed by a loose association of three producers, who work with a local butcher and local restaurants. The goals of the Presidium are to preserve the breed, increase local sales, promote local tourism involving the heathlands and the sheep, develop an education center about sheep and the environment aimed primarily at youth and schools and to strengthen the association of producers. Environmental conservation is a key element to the management of the herds. The Slow Food Convivium – Zwolle (a village 120 km north-east of Amsterdam) will help provide active support for the Presidium.
Drenthe Province in the northeast of the Netherlands
Albert Koopman e Marianne Duinkerken
Schaapskudde Drents-Friese Wold
Piet de Brock
Tel. +31 521387721
Slagerij John van Broekhuizen
Tel. +31 523656335
Tel. 0592 238080 – 06 43982190