For today’s stop on our EU tour we are in Hungary, learning about the Magyar racka juh Magyarország – the Hungarian Racka Sheep of Hungary. The Hungarian word for sheep is juh while the word for wool is gyapjú. You can see these sheep in this beautiful 1966 film called ‘Snow Scenes In Hungary’:

Typical Hungarian "Racka" Sheep - photographed by Francesco Veronesi and shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons 2.0 Non Commercial Share Alike License
Typical Hungarian “Racka” Sheep – photographed by Francesco Veronesi and shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons 2.0 Non Commercial Share Alike License

The following text is taken from a tome that Wovember highly recommends for wool-lovers everywhere: The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius:

Native to the pllains of Hungary, the double-coated and distinctively curly-horned Racka breed was displaced by Merinos during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By the middle of the twentieth century, it had become endangered, its decline accelerated by losses during World War II. In 1983, a breed society was established to support the survival of the Racka.

Racka sheep in Hortobágy National Park, Hungary - photo found on Wiki Commons and released by an unknown author into the public domain
Racka sheep in Hortobágy National Park, Hungary – photo found on Wiki Commons and released by an unknown author into the public domain

About 60 percent of Racka sheep are white (shading into and out of browns) and 40 per cent are black.

Photo of white Hungarian Racka Sheep, photographed at Tiergarten Bernburg, Germany - photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Tragopan
Photo of white Hungarian Racka Sheep, photographed at Tiergarten Bernburg, Germany – photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Tragopan
Typical Hungarian "Racka" Sheep - photographed by Francesco Veronesi and shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons 2.0 Non Commercial Share Alike License
Typical Hungarian “Racka” Sheep – photographed by Francesco Veronesi and shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons 2.0 Non Commercial Share Alike License

Lambs are born with very curly, lustrous wool, initially much like Karakul. Adults grow long, curly fleeces of variable quality, with undercoats between 16 and 30 microns (an exceptionally broad range) and outercoats between 40 and 60 microns, about 8 to 12 inches (20.5 – 30.5cm) long. An annual fleece, between 4 1/2 and 11 pounds (2-5kg) with a yield of 60 to 70 percent, consists of about two-thirds outercoat and one-third undercoat. Both types of fiber will felt.

Racka sheep in Hortobágy National Park, Hungary - photo found on Wiki Commons and released by an unknown author into the public domain
Racka sheep in Hortobágy National Park, Hungary – photo found on Wiki Commons and released by an unknown author into the public domain

Text © Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson and taken from p.320 of their highly recommended tome, The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook published 2011 through Storey press. Header image: ‘English: Fertő-Hanság national park, Hungary – hungarian Zackel sheep (Ovis aries strepsiceros Hungaricus) – photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Traumrune.

In this much more recent footage, filmed in Hortobágy, you can also see Racka sheep, and many other breeds of livestock traditionally kept on the Hungarian plains. Hortobágy is the largest protected nature reserve and the largest natural grassland in Central Europe with cattle, sheep, oxen, horses, tended by herdsmen. An 800 km² national park in Eastern Hungary, in the puszta, Hortobágy is rich with folklore and cultural history. It was designated as a national park in 1973 (the first in Hungary), and elected among the World Heritage sites in 1999. You can see it and the Racka sheep who live there in the footage below:

Links:
National Park Hortobágy – The Puszta
Hungary gene conservation website information on the Racka sheep
The Racka sheep
Working Wool Museum in Hungary that also produces carded, 100% WOOL fibre batts for spinning
Blog post about shearing a Hungarian Racka sheep

One thought on “The Hungarian Racka Sheep of Hungary – Magyar racka juh Magyarország

  1. Wow – I love the cloaks worn by the shepherds in the second video, they look like about 5 sheep’s worth of fleeces! You’d be warm in a blizzard in one of those.

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