Above and to the left is a photo of a group of rackas being advertised in the Illustrated London News for a exhibit in 1869.
The History of Racka Sheep
The Racka is a unique breed with both ewes and rams possessing long spiral shaped horns. The breed is of the Zackel type and originated in Hungary. In Hungary they are considered treasures. In the mid 1700's nearly half of all the sheep there were of the Racka breed, nearly
3 1/2 million. In 1939 The Hungarian government ordered the Racka to be saved, but, during the Second World War mishandling of the flock left only around 1400 sheep.By the 1950’s that number had dropped to around 200 ewes. They are now in a State run national park called Hortobágy.
The Rackas are found in two major color patterns. The most common pattern shows brown hair covering the heads and legs with the fleece varying in color from dark brown to light brown and white. Some individuals are also found which are solid black. The wool tips on these black animals fades to a reddish black with exposure to sunlight and with age the points of the fleece will turn gray. The wool varies within the breed. It is usually described as having a fiber diameter of 12-40 microns. The yield is 38-65 percent. Staple length is approximately 30 cm (12 inches). Fleece weight must be at least 3 kg (6.6 lbs) for rams. The softness and crimp of the wool would indicate its interest for hand spinners.
The minimum acceptable mature body weight for ewes is 40 kg (88 lbs) and for rams 60 kg (132 lbs). The rams average 72 cm (29 inches) in height. Mature males may have horns as long as two feet or more. The minimum standard length is given as 50 cm (20 inches) for rams and 30 cm (12-15 inches) for ewes. The cork-screw horns protrude almost straight upward from the top of the head.
The Racka has been described as a hardy animal, they could survive on the open and dry plains of Hungary and were often used in crossbreeding due to its ability to pass this survivability to its offspring. They were also very adaptable. Some say they can live practically on any type of pasture. These sheep were bred for their wool, meat, and abundant milk. When dried the meat of the Racka sheep provides excellent food for the herders. Its skin serves as clothing – coats and weskits (waistcoats) are made out of it. The herds are kept in corrals for the night, and are guarded by sheep dogs.
They can not be exported into the United States. Although semen was brought in to create our flock the USDA has stopped all importation of semen and embryo's of any species from being imported to the US from Europe and Asia.