Rouge du Roussillon are an endangered breed of sheep from
southern France. They are primarily raised in the French Mediterranean
countryside for lamb meat. They are of Algerian descent, and came to France in
the 18th century, and were likely introduced to France via Spain.
They are a medium fine-wool breed. The males typically weigh
75-100 kg and stand 75-90 cm tall, while the ewes normally weigh around 55-65
kg and stand 65-75 cm tall. They have white wool with a red head and legs. They
are extremely hardy, and are able to survive all year outside. They can also
thrive at high temperatures, and can live in climates with temperatures of over
40 degrees Celsius. However, they also do well in colder climates with scarce
They are raised mainly for meat production. Traditionally,
lamb meat has accounted for about 95% of income from raising Rouge du
Rossillons. The lambs are usually sold when they are still fairly light, around
28-30 kg. Lambs sold when they are heavier are commonly considered to be too
fatty and are not as desirable on the market. The rest of the income comes from
wool sales They were historically milked, with the milk often being used for
cheese production, but this is not common today.
Rouge du Rossillon are not raised by transhumance, with
herds mostly being sedentary. from mid-october to march the herds graze on
residual plants left over from crop harvests. They are often raised alongside
Today, the Rouge du Rossillon is endangered, largely due to
a general decline in livestock raising in its native region. There is an
estimated world population remaining of around 5,900 reproductive females.
However, there has been considerable improvement in recent years in terms of
its population numbers. A 1974 study estimated its population at only 750 ewes
and 25 rams. In 1981, national protection actions were implemented to protect
the breed, and from 1994-2001 a conservation program was launched in Grand
Causses regional natural park in France.