Two Friends Help Save Rare Sheep from Extinction

Last updated on March 30th, 2021 at 02:38 pm

Peter Kasper and Martin Mathies have something in common: they want to save the Montafon stone sheep.

This attractive, approximately 70 cm high animal is quite robust and resistant, you could even say remarkably undemanding.

It doesn’t mind if the weather is bad or there is little variety in the feed. Hay, water and bread will do fine as a menu. Some bran now and then as a small reward for the tame animals. That’s all the Montafon Steinschaf needs to be happy.

And yet it was almost extinct. A pity, if you consider that the Montafon stone sheep is the only animal breed that comes from Vorarlberg besides the Montafon Brown Swiss.

In days gone by, there were thousands of stone sheep here, supplying wool and meat. After the Second World War, however, the meat of other sheep breeds or that of cattle became more popular as the smaller stone sheep are not particularly productive. The stone sheep gradually disappeared from the scene.

© Montafon Tourismus GmbH, Schruns | Patrick Säly

“I knew about the history of the Montafon stone sheep from stories of my father. A few years ago, I met a breeder by chance and bought three from him. Since then I have kept them together with other animals,” says hobby farmer Martin Mathies, who works full-time in the family carpentry business.

He didn’t have to persuade his friend Peter Kasper for long. His family has always kept animals and he now also concentrates on the stone sheep – in addition to his work as an insurance salesman.

The two wanted to preserve this breed, which is so typical of the Montafon and was already on the verge of extinction, because they are conscious of the value of their own culture.

In 2011 they founded the initiative “Montafoner Steinschaf” (Montafon Stone Sheep) and managed to get more farmers enthusiastic about the breed. Nowadays there are about 15 breeders and about 400 animals in Vorarlberg, 150 to 200 of them in the Montafon.

And a lot of this success is due to Martin Mathies and Peter Kasper. With a lot of commitment and perseverance they work together with other breeders and regional partners and create the best conditions for the future of the Vorarlberg breed.

They are very pleased that awareness for their own sheep breed has grown and that school and kindergarten classes often come to visit them.

Nevertheless, there is no let up with their commitment.

Cooperation with breeders and partners who have already supported them with marketing and financing is to be intensified.

In order to absorb the costs, they develop and distribute various products made from the robust wool. For example, there are knitted products for hands and feet, furs and carpets, but also hats and even lampshades made of felt.

In addition, Peter Kasper and Martin Mathies would also like to set up a show farm for old animal breeds.

There is always something to do to ensure that the bleating and ringing of bells of the Montafon stone sheep will never stop.

More information: (German only)