Wherever there have been humans for the past eight thousand years, there have been sheep. Since they were first domesticated in 6000 BC, humans have traveled with these wonderfully adaptable animals. With each new adaptation, evolution has resulted in new breeds.
Today, it is estimated that there are some 1500+ sheep breeds world wide. Of those, nearly 30% are in danger of extinction. Globalization of the world wool market has resulted in the concentration of wealth in a handful of breeds worldwide and this threatens every other breed.
Today, many breeds are kept alive by hand spinners who seek out such rare breeds. Each of these breeds have been adapted for specific purposes. Some solely for meat production, it’s true, but some for characteristics which have lost value in modern times.
Hopefully, there are enough hand spinners world wide to keep such rare breeds (and their farmers) alive and well in the coming years. But for every breed saved some are lost, and with them, the secrets of their use and hard bred characteristics.
So, in the coming years I’ll be working through a breed study. I’ll keep a list here of the breeds that have been studied as well as links to their blog posts. Hopefully, the information I learn will be useful to other spinners and to me as well in the future!
The following list will be kept alphabetical by breed.
- Italian Merino [Mar. 2016]
- Dorset [Apr. 2016]
A great resource for breed specifics: http://www.sheep101.info/sheepbreedsa-z.html