The Ciuta sheep (pronounced tshiuta) still exists in a small northern Italian side valley of Valtellina, where it lives freely in woods and pastures for most of the year. The habitat is harsh and consists of meagre and steep pastures at altitudes between 800 - 2700 m above sea level. In winter, the animals are kept for 2-3 months in barns and fed with hay and dry leaves.
Striking about the Ciuta are the goat-like horns of the females, this occurs only in original breeds of sheep. Together with the Tavetsch sheep in the Grisons Oberland and the sheep of Montafon in Vorarlberg, the Ciuta could be a direct descendant of the extinct Peat sheep (Ovis aries palustris). It is interesting that all three breeds are referred to as "Tshiut" in the respective local language. Female Ciuta weigh only 30-35 kg and have a withers height of only 40-45 cm, they are the smallest breed of sheep of the Alpine region. The wool is of low quality and low productivity. The very low in-put and the use in extremely extensive farming needs to be taken into consideration when looking at their economic potential
For about 30 years, the farmers have tried to crossbreed with the large-framed Ber-gamasca sheep to make the breed more "productive". This did not succeed, but the pure Ciutas have almost disappeared. When the sheep were brought down from the Alp in autumn 2013 of the almost 500 sheep only just three dozen reasonably pure Ciutas could be identified.
With the help of the local government veterinarian, it was possible for the network Pro Patrimonio Montano to buy 25 animals and thus to form four new breeding nuclei. Other breeders are participating on a private basis in the conservation programme. During winter additional sheep could be bought with farmers not participating in mountain grazing.