Rare sheep population rebounds after terrorist massacres

August 7th, 2009

After many years, Junín Sheep, a unique breed from the region of the same name, are finally making their comeback, helping poor Andean farmers earn a living.

It might seem strange that an ultra-left terrorist group with the stated aim of freeing “the people” from the “bourgeoisie” would exterminate the poorest most downtrodden of the people’s only means of subsistence, but that is because the Sendero Luminoso, or the Shining Path, who waged a brutal war on the Government in the 1980s, were completely out of their minds. If you haven’t read about Peru’s darkest years since the Spanish conquest that saw 70,000 dead and countless pushed further into poverty, read about it here.

The Junín breed of sheep was bred in Peru to the point where it was considered a distinct and separate breed – and a good one at that for its muscle formation and wide deep chest. They had a lot of meat and very fine wool. Registered in 1955, they quickly populated the region and poor farmers were obviously very proud of them.  The terrorists, against all forms of trade or commercial activity, decided to repeatedly attack those who where rearing the increasing sought-after and expensive rare breed. From numbers in tens of thousands, they where reduced to hundreds in many terrorists attacks and massacres. Andean peoples suffered greatly from the loss – for many keeping livestock was their only source income.

So there was great joy last week, when at the regional fair in Junín, 200 perfect specimens were shown off. After lots of hard work over the past couple of decades, their numbers are beginning to rise, and people are again starting to see the benefits. As many as 80,000 people came to see the sheep over the course of the event – a very big deal in rural Junín.

The Túpac Amaru Agricultural Society for Social Interest are resposible for much of the breeding effort, mostly in the Yauli and Jauja provinces of the region. The society affirms that they have raised 21,000 sheep that have some of the finest wool of any breed. Entered into a competition, the 200 animals won the price, and the society won a lot of praise.

Perhaps sheep aren’t the biggest news outside of the rural Andes, but it is fascinating to see how long the dark reach of the Sendero Luminoso was and how it has stretched over time. The affects of their deeds still being recovered from.

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