The Rambouillet is the French version of the Merino. In 1786, Louis XVI imported 359 Spanish Merinos for his estate at Rambouillet, and the Merinos were crossed with the resident sheep. The resultant Rambouillet sheep were first brought to the United States in 1840.
Rambouillets are very large and have strong bodies and little wrinkling. They are hardy and possess remarkable herding instincts. They spread out to graze during the day and gather closely together to sleep at night, making them excellent for open range. They also adapt well to a wide range of climates and feeds, making them equally suitable for farm flocks.
They are considered to be a dual-purpose breed, with desirable carcass and good wool production. The ewes can be bred early to lamb in November and December, and the lambs give good yield in boneless, trimmed meat cuts. The fleece is less oily than that of the Merion, so it also shrinks less. The rams have horns, and both sexes have white feet and open faces.
The Navajo-Churro breed developed from sheep imported by the Spanish more than 400 years ago. Native Americans acquired flocks of sheep from the Spanish ranchers and villages in the early seventeenth century.
Within 100 years, herding and weaving became the main enterprise of the Navajos in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Their sheep became so important that the Navajo name for sheep means “that by which we live.”
During the late 1800s, the U.S. Army decimated flocks of Navajo sheep in an effort to subjugate the Navajo. In the 1900s, U.S. agencies slaughtered large numbers of the flock in an effort to control “overgrazing and erosion.” Only a few small flocks remained.
Today, conservationists and Navajo Native Americans are once again breeding the Navajo-Churros for their important characteristics, such as hardiness, longevity, and high lamb survivability on the range.
The fleece is double coated — the inner coat has fine wool and the outer coat is long, coarse, and lustrous. It is the fleece of these sheep that gives classing Rio Grande and Navajo weavings their strong and lustrous taints.
The Southdown, one of the oldest meat breeds in the world, still ranks among the top four purebred sheep breeds today. The Southdown is small to medium-sized with a light brown face and wool extending down the legs. The lambs produce excellent smaller-type lamb carcasses.
The breed is very docile and ideally suited for intensive management. They are popular with small flock producers and make great youth projects.
Southdowns originated in the South Downs, a hilly area of Southeastern England. This heritage makes them especially adaptable to varied climates and terrains. Imported in the United States in 1803, the Southdown is also prolific with good milking ability and lamb survival.
Southdown fleeces produce a medium wool fiber. The shorn staple is suitable for hand-spinning into fine yarns.