Heritage Livestock: Sheep

Since we have now completed the overview of the endangered heritage breed poultry and fowl, we will move on to the larger stock. The first of our larger, hoofed-stock is sheep. TLC currently lists five breeds under critical status, another ten under threatened, and four more on the watch list.

Sheep can be a good addition to the homestead for meat, milk, and fiber. It has always been an idea of mine to learn how to spin wool. I don’t particularly like the feel of wool, though I do love wool socks, I would just like to learn a new skill that I could apply to animals and sustainability in the future. Lamb is my most favorite of domesticated livestock meat, slightly gamey, tender, and delicious. For this post, we will cover the critical and threatened breeds of sheep.

  • Florida Cracker – bred for meat, one of the oldest sheep in North America, refined in Florida, they are usually bred to be polled, parasite & heat resistant, can be docile and alert, are recommended for novice to intermediate shepherds, ewes usually bear twins with a 150-200% lambing rate
  • Gulf Coast – (aka Gulf Coast Native) originated in the SE North America, bred for meat, heat tolerant and parasite resistant, breed and lamb year-round, most have horns, alert and docile breed, recommended for novice to intermediate shepherds
  • Hog Island – developed on Hog Island (barrier island of Virginia, US), bred for wool, said to be “living history museums” (wild sheep that were developed and roamed freely on the island), extremely hardy, self-sufficient, excellent foragers, prefer browsing over grazing, sheep naturally shed their wool slowly each year, for intermediate shepherds
  • Romeldale – (CVM) unique breed to the Americas, dual purpose for meat and wool, docile, prolific, long lived, wide range of colors, wool is highly regarded, for the novice to intermediate shepherd
  • Santa Cruz – bred for wool, developed in the Americas (Santa Cruz island off of California), small in size, adapted to a hot and dry climate, unusually elastic wool, exceptionally hardy, for the intermediate shepherd

    *it should be noted that all breeds listed under critical status are breeds developed in North America
  • Black Welsh Mountain – only completely black breed in Britain, dual purpose for wool & meat, temper varies by flock, does not flock tightly, small to medium in size, for the novice to intermediate shepherd
  • Clun Forest – dual purpose, large breed, docile, selectively bred for production, polled, dense and uniform wool, for the novice to intermediate shepherd
  • Cotswold – longwool sheep bred and developed in England, dual purpose, fleece hangs in locks, large breed, for the intermediate shepherd
  • Dorset Horn – ancient breed developed in England, dual purpose, large breed, graze well, A-seasonal breeders (no breeding season, some ewes raise 2 sets of lambs per year), ewes produce high quality milk, for the novice to intermediate shepherd
  • (American) Jacob – originated in the Middle East, bred for wool, small, horned, medium fleece, spotted colors, two, four, or sometimes six horns, docile, for the novice to intermediate shepherd
  • (American) Karakul – originated in central Asia, fat tailed sheep, horned, carpet wool with a wide range of colors, hardy and adaptable, breeds out of season, for the novice to intermediate shepherd
  • Leicester Longwool – dual purpose for wool & meat, developed in England, medium to large breed, slow growing, long lustrous wool, for the advanced shepherd
  • Lincoln – bred for wool, developed in Lincolnshire, their wool is long, hardy, and lustrous, deep bodied, sturdy, multiple colors, require good nutrition, for the intermediate shepherd
  • Navajo-Churro – smaller dual purpose breed, double coated fleece, America’s first domestic sheep, hardy, adapted for desert climates, many colors, for the novice to intermediate shepherd
  • St. Croix – meat breed, Caribbean Hair breed, adapted to heat and humidity, do not have wool but hair, docile, prolific, parasite resistant, for the novice to intermediate shepherd

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