Today the Wovember Words EU tour is stopping in Malta where the word for sheep is nagħaġ and the word for wool is suf.

Malta has a breed of sheep – the Maltese sheep – described in this leaflet like this:

This rare indigenous breed was the original seedstock used in the development of the Comisana breed found in Sicily. They were reared for milk, meat and wool production. Their head is mostly masked reddish, yellow or black with long neck and semi lop ears. Muzzles have no wool and their long slim body with long silky coat is mostly white fleece but may have patches at any place; the patches will be of the same colour of the head. Head and feet and not fleeced. Their long tail is covered with long fleece.

Sheep - a rare sight nowadays in Malta! Photo was taken by Doreen Gauci in the north of Malta and found on the Malta Weather Site
Sheep – a rare sight nowadays in Malta! Photo was taken by Doreen Gauci in the north of Malta and found on the Malta Weather Site
Sheep in Malta - photo of sheep in Fawwara in Malta, taken by Alfred Coppola and found on the Malta Weather Site
Sheep in Malta – photo of sheep in Fawwara in Malta, taken by Alfred Coppola and found on the Malta Weather Site
Sheep and goats together in Triq Lapsi, Siġġiewi, Malta - photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Frank Vincentz
Sheep and goats together in Triq Lapsi, Siġġiewi, Malta – photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Frank Vincentz
Sheep and goats together in Triq Lapsi, Siġġiewi, Malta - photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Frank Vincentz
Sheep and goats together in Triq Lapsi, Siġġiewi, Malta – photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Frank Vincentz

From the photos we could find, the Maltese sheep is very often kept in flocks with goats, and the milk from both is used to make a special type of small round cheese cheese called Ġbejna (Maltese pronunciation: [ˈd͡ʒbɛjnɐ], plural ġbejniet). According to Wikipedia, “before Malta’s accession to the European Union, the EU accepted Malta’s request to protect the ġbejna cheese along with the traditional variant of ricotta”. Since 1994, a special breeding programme has been in operation to increase flocks of Maltese sheep and goats.

A variety of fresh and cured Sheep's Milk Cheeselets from Malta - photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Chattacha
A variety of fresh and cured Sheep’s Milk Cheeselets from Malta – photo found on Wiki Commons and attributable to Chattacha

The only references that we could find to wool from the Maltese sheep was in this video from Merill.

Merill is an ecoutourism company set up “to create alternative experiences for locals and tourists, which contribute directly towards the conservation of the environment and empowerment of the rural communities.” The video was co-financed by the European Union under the Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007 – 2013 and you can buy woven products made by Antoine, (the weaver in the film) here.

As ever, please share your comments below and help us to grow knowledge about nagħaġ u suf f’Malta (sheep and wool in Malta).

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