Perpetuating rare livestock species

Perpetuating rare livestock species
© Berghotel Rehlegg

When we think about sustainability, the first things that usually come to mind are food waste, environmental protection, and problems caused by plastic. However, the promotion and preservation of biodiversity are important aspects of sustainability as well. Due to our increasing demand, the diversity of livestock has significantly declined over the last century. Contemporary society demands meat, milk, eggs, leather, wool – as fast as possible, in large quantities, and at low prices. To meet this demand, productivity and optimization play an increasing role in the breeding of livestock. This is usually not compatible with biodiversity, which means that many old breeds are threatened with extinction. Fortunately, there are people who are committed to the breeding of old and rare animal species, for example the owners of the hotel Schloss Wartegg with their old breed of sheep “Bündner Oberländer Schaf”, or of Berghotel Rehlegg with their Black Alpine pigs.


Sheep become lawnmowers 

Thanks to their agility, the energetic sheep of the “Bündner Oberländer Schaf” breed easily survive in alpine terrain. They feel equally at home in the garden of Schloss Wartegg enjoying the lush meadows. Luckily, there are organizations working for the preservation of genetic diversity: The sheep of the breed Bündner Oberländer Schaf were obtained from the Swiss organization “Pro Specie Rara.” Technically speaking, these sheep are a hybrid of several old sheep breeds, and accordingly they are very adaptable and robust. They are characterized by their mixed wool, which is particularly suitable for felting, and the spiral horns of the rams. As they are of an original breed, they have hardly any hereditary defects. Plenty of good reasons to safe this species from extinction.


Schafe, Schloss Wartegg
“Bündner Oberländer Schafe” at Schloss Wartegg © Schloss Wartegg


Coming home to Bavaria

For more than 100 years, the Black Alpine pig had disappeared in Bavaria. Thanks to Johannes Lichtmannegger from Berghotel Rehlegg, for some years now they are back. The reason for their disappearance had been the conventional fattening of pigs: at the beginning of the 20th century, this old breed was replaced by fast-growing and profitable pigs imported from Asia which are fed to a state ready for slaughter in a very short time in order to keep up with the increasing demand for meat. “1907, the last Black Alpine pig was butchered in Bavaria. When I had heard of it, it was clear to me that this breed had to be resettled in our region,” Lichtmannegger explains. 


Finding their way back to the Alps

In 2016, the hotelier got six alpine piglets from the Italian organization “Pro Patrimonio Montano,” which protects native alpine animals. On the one hand, he wanted to bring the robust animals back to their Bavarian home, on the other hand, he rejects conventional fattening methods because he cares for the animals’ wellbeing. Berghotel Rehlegg wants to serve meat from species-appropriate farming only, and Lichtmannegger is pleased that many people thing the same way: “For a long time, the quality of meat wasn’t important for the production. It was all about quantity. Meanwhile, there is a return toward quality; people care about the animals again. Our guests want to know where our ingredients and products come from.”


Schwarzes Alpenschwein © Sebastian Kettenbacher
The Black Alpine pigs at Berghotel Rehlegg © Sebastian Kettenbacher


The cute little baby pigs © Berghotel Rehlegg


Pigs with advantages

Compared to fattening pigs, the Black Alpine pigs have some advantages which allow them a species-appropriate life in the mountains. The robust animals are made for alpine conditions and therefore can live outdoors all year round. Their dark skin pigmentation and black fur protects them from alpine weather, no matter if it is sunny or cold. Since they grow much slower, their meat is of a finer-marbled texture than meat from fattening animals. Due to their nutrition with lush grass and fresh herbs, the meat tastes more intensely and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are rarely found in meat from fattening pigs.. By now, the hotel’s breeding totals much more than the six original animals and brings a piece of cultural and ecological heritage back to Bavaria.


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