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Take a look at some of the more unusual and unique animals found on farms in Siberia

By Anna Liesowska & Derek Lambie
16 February 2015

From frost-resistant woolly pigs to sheep that look like goats and horses that love playing the snow, there are lots of surprises across the taiga.

One of the most intriguing is the new generation of hybrid sheep that has been created by scientists in Yakutia to specifically survive outdoors. Picture: Vladimir Postnikov

Farms can be interesting places at the best of times, perhaps none more so than in Siberia where some of the world's rarest animals can be found.

From frost-resistant woolly pigs that look more like sheep, to sheep with a striking resemblance to goats, and horses that love nothing better than frolicking about in the snow, many of the unusual breeds fit in well with the region's long sub-zero winters.

One of the most intriguing is the new generation of hybrid sheep that has been created by scientists in Yakutia to specifically survive outdoors in the harsh cold.

Bred between a domestic sheep and a chubuku – a wild Siberian bighorn sheep – only a handful of these animals, named ovchubuks, exist anywhere in the world. A new generation was born earlier this year, with six little lambs in the second batch of hybrids at the Yakut State Agricultural Academy.

Scientists hope that in future the ovchubuks can become one of the most important agricultural animals in Yakutia, also known as the Sakha Republic, for their meat, milk and wool. And, crucially, because the sheep has been bred with a bighorn sheep, the new species is resistant to frost and able to survive in extremely low temperatures.

Ovchubuks


Ovchubuks


Ovchubuks


Ovchubuks

Bred between a domestic sheep and a chubuku – a wild Siberian bighorn sheep – only a handful of these animals, named ovchubuks, exist anywhere in the world. Pictures: YSIA, Vladimir Postnikov

The first ovchubuks – a male called Lokuta and a female named Nyurgusun – have spent almost all of their time outdoors and coped easily with the Yakut cold.

Elsewhere in Siberia, woolly pigs known as Mangalica are becoming increasingly popular with farmers with speculation they may form the backbone of all future pig farming.

Originally from Hungary, the animals are descended directly from wild boar populations and wear an unusual thick hairy fleece, similar to that on a sheep. The coat ensures it can withstand freezing temperatures, and the pig is popular because it produces tasty sausages and tender meat much softer than pork.

Irina, who runs a farm with her husband Aleksander in Angarsk, Irkutsk, told: 'We wanted to buy some rare pigs for our region and found these fluffies on the Internet.

'We bought them straight from Hungary. It turned out that it is profitable to breed Mangalica here, since they don’t not get cold in winters, and are not too fussy with their food, despite their European origins. Now we have four adults and seven piglets.'

Aleksander added: 'Mangalica pigs have a strong immune system and good genetics, and they also grow very fast. For example, a piglet adds 200 kg in just a year. The weight of an adult pig is 300 kg.'

The Filippov family, from Buryatia, bought their first Hungarian pigs in August last year, and were attracted to the fact the animals can resist the cold and have a huge bodyweight.

Mangalica in Siberia


Mangalica in Siberia


Mangalica in Siberia


Mangalica in Siberia

'It turned out that it is profitable to breed Mangalica here, since they don’t not get cold in winters, and are not too fussy with their food, despite their European origins.' Pictures: Alexander Garmayev, Julia Pykhalova

Marina Filippova, who said she knows of at least three other farmers nearby with the pigs, said: 'Their meat is extremely tasty and tender. It differs from normal pork and is even considered as healthy.'

Another farmer with a small herd of the Mangalica pigs is Buryat farmer Vladimir Fyodorov. He said: 'I found information on these pigs in the Internet and really wanted to breed them.

'But initially I thought that I needed to buy a piece of meat just to try it, to see if it is tasty, but no one was selling them anywhere. Then I began to look for where I could buy the pigs, and the nearest available were in the Moscow area. I bought 15 sows and two boars. In mid-autumn ten pigs became pregnant and each had between five and eight piglets.'

One of the more unusual features about the pigs is that the sows prefer to give birth in the forest, most likely as a result of their boar genetics. They dig a hole and make a birthing bed for themselves amid the pine trees.

For Vladimir that proved confusing at first. 'We searched for them for several days,' he said. 'We could hardly find them and when they did they wouldn’t come closer. The sows wouldn’t allow us to get closer than five metres. Somehow though we did manage to make them come home.

'What was also very interesting was that the adults surrounded piglets on all sides, and themselves lined up in a circle.

Another interesting find in Siberian farms are the little Yakut horses, which appear oblivious to temperatures that drop as low as -50C. The most northern breed in the world, it somehow manages to live outdoors and graze all year round without any protection from the harsh cold.

With thick coat to keep it warm, the little Yakut horse loves nothing better than running about the frozen fields 


With thick coat to keep it warm, the little Yakut horse loves nothing better than running about the frozen fields 


With thick coat to keep it warm, the little Yakut horse loves nothing better than running about the frozen fields 


With thick coat to keep it warm, the little Yakut horse loves nothing better than running about the frozen fields  

No matter the weather, both the workers and the animals have to spend a lot of time outdoorsPictures: Maria Vasilyeva

With very thick and long hair, thick skin and a layer of fat, they are the most frost resistant of all known breeds – they simply have to be since they live in Yakutia.

The Yakut horse averages about 150cm in height and shares a number of obvious similarities with the Shetland pony, including its sturdy nature, thick mane and heavy hair coat.

Its winter coat reaches about 10cm in length, and the horse also has a very thick busy tail and a long mane that not only covers its neck but its shoulders. They are particularly good at foraging for food on their own and can even reach grass from under the snow, using their hooves to dig beneath the frozen ground.

Yakut horses are used for their meat and milk, while their warm hair can be turned into clothes. The local government is trying to increase their numbers in the region to 200,000 by 2020 as part of a scheme to also attract more young people to work as herders.

Comments (2)

Very interesting article. In all times Human has tried to adapt breed for differents contrysides --> plain, montain, warm, cold ...It is a serious and wisdom job and now breeds are various. I love Yakut horses pictures, very nice and strong animals
Jocelyne, FRANCE
19/02/2015 15:22
5
0
Those are some very sturdy breeds! I wouldn't want to come up on the wrong side of that male sheep/goat or those wooly pigs!!
frances, usa
18/02/2015 00:33
3
0
1

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