History of the Breeds

Scroll down to view histories for all of the sheep breeds or click on the links below for history by breed.

History of the Painted Desert, Texas Dall, Black Hawaiian, Corsican, American Blackbelly, and Desert Sand Sheep

History of the American Heavy Horned Sheep

History of the European Mouflon

History of the Multi-horned Hair Sheep

History of the New Mexico Dahl Sheep


History of the Painted Desert, Texas Dall, Black Hawaiian, American Blackbelly, Desert Sand, and Corsican Sheep

A HISTORY – SHEEP MADE IN AMERICA!!!

Like many of the wool cousins, these American Made sheep breeds have a unique past. The Painted Desert, Texas Dall, Black Hawaiian, American Blackbelly, Desert Sand, and Corsican Sheep are actually the result of initial crosses decades ago between the shedding, European Mouflon Sheep (native to Corsica and Sardinia) with a wide range of more well known “wool” breeds of sheep including Horned Rambouillet, Churro, Merino, and Jacob.

European Mouflons eventually made their way into several zoos in the United States. After several years, the zoos released some of the Mouflons to large ranches with a concentrated release in Texas. Here in the United States, after 1946, the European Mouflon Sheep crossed with the more well-known wool sheep breeds and the wonderful breeds called Painted Desert, Texas Dall, Black Hawaiian, Desert Sand, and Corsican were born.

At times, some of these crosses also included a hair or shedding sheep called the Barbados Blackbelly which were imported from the Caribbean island of Barbados, West Indies with bloodlines originally coming from Africa.  The American Blackbelly Sheep derive from such bloodlines.

One of the very first crosses happened in the mid 1900’s at the YO Ranch in Texas between European Mouflon Ewes and Rambouillet rams resulting in beautiful snowy white, shedding sheep now known as the Texas Dall.  The two lambs which were produced by the Rambouillet X Mouflon cross were found by Bob Snow of the Y.O. Ranch and were the first Texas Dalls (Mungall, 2007).

While some research notes the possibility that feral European Mouflon sheep in Hawaii were crossed with sheep on the Islands and all-black offspring were imported to the continental U.S. as Black Hawaiians or Hawaiian Black Sheep, importation data currently known does not support this account of the origins of the all-black, horned, shedding sheep.

Originally, the European Mouflon and the new sheep breeds were primarily used for “Trophies” due to the rams’ beautiful horns.  As the popularity of the sheep increased, the focus has become on achieving recognition for these sheep for other markets such as meat, show, pasture/fence line clearing, etc., and for simply being unique sheep deserving of recognition as individual breeds.

These are truly American Breeds – originating in Texas, North Carolina and other states and now located throughout the USA and also in Canada! The unique breeds represent the American Spirit of ingenuity and creativity.

CLICK ABOVE in top menu for more information on European Mouflon

BREED RECOGNITION

As with other breeds of sheep and even other animals, Texas Dalls, Black Hawaiians, Desert Sands, Corsicans, American Blackbelly and Painted Desert Sheep started out as hybrids or composites of 2 or more different breeds – with one parent being the Mouflon Sheep.  Once the special characteristics of these wonderful sheep became more popular, efforts to get these sheep recognized as a unique and individual breed were underway by dedicated breeders.

In 1997, a Painted Desert registry was started in Texas in order to promote recognition for the Painted Desert Sheep as being a unique sheep deserving of more than it‘s humble origins.

In 2005, the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Association, International, created a class for the American or Texas Blackbelly which has led to an increase in education and recognition about the breed who was initially generally a Mouflon X Barbados Blackbelly X Ramboulliet sheep.

In 2009 the United Horned Hair Sheep Association, Inc. was formed and incorporated as a member owned and operated, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and providing education about the breeds of sheep it represents: Painted Desert, Texas Dall, Black Hawaiian, Desert Sand, Corsican, and Mouflon.

To learn more about the sheep, including mothering and lambing, CLICK on the links ABOVE.

References (also consider references on the page about the history of European Mouflon Sheep.

Mungall, E. C. (2007).  Exotic Animal Field Guide. Texas A& M University Press, College Station: 2007.


History of the American Heavy Horned Sheep

Through the years, breeders have sought to increase body size and horn basal circumference in the sheep.  To attain these goals, as noted in the diagram below, sheep within the American Heavy Horned Division have influences from several sheep breeds. While working towards these goals, shepherds desired a division in which to officially recognize pedigrees and bloodlines. UHHSA, Inc., created the American Heavy Horned Division with a set of standards and breeding guidelines to meet the shepherds’ needs as Bighorn, Alaskan Dall, or Stumberg sheep are appropriately not included within the Black Hawaiian, Corsican, Desert Sand, Mouflon, Painted Desert, and Texas Dall bloodlines.

While the definition of what is a species and what is a true subspecies can be discussed and the best scientific classification systems can be debated, North America is blessed with several races or breeds of primitive native, or wild sheep.  While no sheep are truly native to North America, sheep have existed here since at least the Pleistocene period after several migratory events which found populations spreading out from a focal point in the Asian region.  Sheep forms have changed and adapted to the environment resulting in a multitude of species and subspecies.  In addition, human domestication and breeding efforts have contributed to the evolution of the sheep form as well as migratory expansion. While not originating here, specific sheep breeds or species have become viewed as native to North America (Gildart, 1999).

According to Gildart (1999), there exists an arc of wild sheep within North America.   From Colorado’s Pike’s Peak to Death Valley, the Sierra Nevada, White Mountain, Denali National Park, and Arches National Parks and the Grand Canyon, this region features a wide range of geographic and weather environments.   The sheep arc contained 40 breeds or races, 10 of which can trace back toward primitive forms and of which 9 are still living (Gildart, 1999).  Gildart (1999) related molecular differences exist between the nine subspecies and have been identified by chromosome mapping.

These pseudo native sheep within the North American arc can be divided into two distinct groupings: Thinhorns and Bighorns (Gildart, 1999; Toweill & Geist, 1999).

  1. Thinhorns exist generally north of Canada’s Peace River Valley.  Basal circumferences measure around 12 inches.        
    • Dall Sheep (Dall’s Sheep)        
    • Stone Sheep        
    • Kenai Peninsula Dall
  2. Bighorns exist generally south of Canada’s Peace River Valley.  Basal circumferences measure around 17 inches.        
    • Audubon (Extinct)        
    • Rocky Mountain Bighorn (the largest with blocky bodies and mature weights for rams at 285 lbs.)        
    • California Bighorn        
    • Desert Bighorn (horn sizes rival the larger-bodied Rocky Mountain Bighorns, weights for mature rams are around 191 lbs.)                
      • Nelson’s                
      • Mexican                
      • Peninsular                
      • Weem’s

Below are brief descriptions of pure Alaskan Dall, Bighorn, and Stumberg Sheep.  Keep in mind that weights, sizes, and horns will vary as the percentages or influences fluctuate within the individual sheep within the American Heavy Horned Sheep Division.  For example, sheep which are about 50% Bighorn within healthy environments have basal circumference sizes of about 15 inches., compared to the pure Bighorns which can have 17+ inch basal circumference.

Alaskan Dall Sheep

“Dall Sheep” by DenaliNPS is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Photo Denali 2. “Dall Sheep Head Shot” by DenaliNPS is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo Denali 3. “Dall Sheep- Scratching Back” by DenaliNPS is licensed under CC BY 2.0

BACKGROUND

Alaskan Dall Sheep are found in the Alaskan mountains, Yukon, western edge of northwest territory and in the extreme northwest British Columbia according to Toweill and Geist (1999). Toweill and Geist (1999) remarked that the Dall sheep are the only North American sheep to live north of the Arctic circle. The sheep have 54 chromosomes.

COLORING & SIZE

The Alaskan Dall sheep are beautiful snowy white animals with striking horns.  Mature rams tend to weigh 200 – 220 lbs. with specimens along the northern latitudes running smaller sized.

HORNS

Basal circumferences run around 12 inches and these sheep are therefore grouped into the Thinhorn category. When viewed, the horns may not have the overall massive body as compared to Bighorns; however, the horns tend to be wider spaced from the face than some Bighorn sheep.  Ewes have horns which are smaller in size than rams’ horns.

GESTATION & LAMBING

In a study from 1978, Nichols noted the average gestation is 171 days with peak lambing from mid to the end of May.

Bighorn Sheep

Photo Bighorn 1. “Bighorn Sheep – Ovis canadensis” By USGS – Kim Keating is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Photo Bighorn 2. “Big Horn Sheep” By JeremyWeber is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo Bighorn 3. “Desert Bighorn Sheep” By Lake Mead NRA Public Affairs is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0  
Note the smaller frame and the wider spread of the horns in this Desert Bighorn when compared with the Rocky Mountain Bighorn.

BACKGROUND

Bighorn sheep are divided into three remaining subspecies according to several literature sources: Rocky Mountain Bighorn, California Bighorn, and Desert Bighorn.  The Audubon Bighorn is extinct (Gildart, 1999). The Desert Bighorn is further divided into Nelson’s, Mexican, Peninsular, and Weem’s.  Bighorn sheep have 54 chromosomes but differ from the Thinhorns in both cranial and dental aspects (Gildart, 1999).

COLORING & SIZE

Bighorn sheep may exhibit various shades and darken as they age. Fawn to chocolate with some gray overtones along with possibly light gray or brown sable are typically observed. A prominent lighter to whitetail and rump patch and gray to white muzzle are standard.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn mature rams approach 40 inches at the withers and weigh up to 260 lbs. with some specimens pushing 300 lbs. according to Toweill and Geist (1999).  Ewes reach 115 to 200 lbs. and stand around 36 inches at the withers (Toweill & Geist, 1999). Desert Bighorn rams range from 125 to 200 lbs and stand around 33 – 35 inches at the withers with ewes ranging from 75 to 120 lbs. according to Toweill and Geist (1999).

Desert Bighorns also exhibit larger ears than their Rocky Mountain cousins.

HORNS

Bighorns outpace the Alaskan Dall in horn basal circumference with 17 inches possible.  Horns themselves could weigh up to 30 lbs. According to Toweill and Geist (1999), lengths on old rams may be in the 40+ inch range.  However, in all these sheep, brooming of the tips make actual measurements difficult. Desert Bighorns may have smaller basal circumferences of 13 – 16 inches with 35 – 40 inch lengths (Toweill & Geist, 1999).  Desert Bighorn ewes exhibit 13 – 15 inch long horns and may exceed the Rocky Mountain Bighorn ewes horn length.

GESTATION & LAMBING

Lambs generally weigh 8 – 10 lbs. with singles the general rule; however, twins have been observed from the Desert Bighorn (Toweill & Geist, 1999). The Rocky Mountain Bighorns have a 175 day gestation period and lambing usually occurs from late April through mid-June. The breeding peak is generally in November.  Desert Bighorns have an average longer gestation period of 179 days and a longer peak breeding period.

Stumberg Sheep

BACKGROUND

According to Mungall (2007), Stumberg Sheep were created by the Patio Ranch in Hunt, Texas.  Mouflon ewes were bred to Argali rams due to a lack of Argali ewes during Argali conservation efforts (Mungall, 2007).

COLORING & SIZE

Stumberg sheep generally retain the Mouflon coloring but are larger in body size and horn size.  According to Mungall (2007), ewes weigh around 100 lbs with males weighing 150 – 225 lbs.

HORNS

Horns tend to vary away from the Mouflon’s supracervical (heart-shaped) shape and turn more into the homonymous (corkscrew) shape. Both polled and horned Stumberg ewes exist; however, horned ewes in more prevalent according to Mungall (2007). Mature rams’ horn lengths may achieve a range of 30 – 39 inches (Mungall, 2007).

GESTATION & LAMBING

Both Single and Twins are experienced with a gestation period of approximately 150 days.  Stumberg sheep are year-round breeders; however, an increase in mating may occur in late Summer or early Fall (Mungall, 2007).

Photo Mouflon Ewe and Lamb. Rafter SB/Iron Diamond Farm and Ranch, New Lebanon, OH.

Photo Argali 1. Argali Stuffed Specimen (Ovis Ammon). Exhibit in the National Museum of
Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan. By Momotarou2012CC BY-SA 3.0

References

Gildart, B. (1999). Mountain monarchs Bighorn sheep. Minnetonka, MN: NorthWood Press.

Mungall, E. C. (2007). Exotic animal field guide. College Station, TX: Texas A & M University Press.

Nichols, L. (1978, July). Dall sheep reproduction. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 42(3), 570-580. DOI: 10.2307/3800820

Toweill, D. E., & Geist, V. (1999). Return of royalty. Missoula, MT: Boone and Crockett Club & the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.


History of the Mouflon Sheep

WHERE DID MOUFLON SHEEP ORIGINATE?

Domestic sheep have disputed origins and as well as ancestral scientific classifications for the subspecies (Hiendleder, Mainz, Plante, & Lewalski, 1998; Sanna, Barbato, Hadjisterkotis, Cossu, et al., 2015).  This can make tracing the ancestors of modern sheep confusing at times.  However, research indicates that Mouflon Sheep are one of the original sheep from which breeds of domestic sheep descended (Toweill & Geist, 1999).  Specifically, the Asiatic Mouflon (Ovis gmelini, Ovis orientalis, O.orientalis anatolica, O. orientalis gmelini) is currently viewed as one of the original sheep contributing to today’s domestic sheep Ovis aries (Hiendleder, Kaupe, Wassmth, & Janke, 2002).  

For a long time, European Mouflon (Ovis musimom) sheep were thought to be the ancestors of domestic sheep breeds (Bunch & Nguyen, 1982; Sanna, Barbato Hadjisterkotis Cossu, et al., 2015).  Today’s foray into sheep origins has produced two theories as scientific classifications have been revised and genetic research is utilized. One thought is that European Mouflons descended from one of the original sheep (Asiatic Mouflon), were domesticated, brought to the Mediterranean region, and ultimately become feral (Dohner, 2001).  In other words, European Mouflon sheep are “feral domestic sheep” Toweill & Geist, 1999, p. 9).  A second possibility is that European Mouflons are from flocks of primitive sheep which spread out on their own and became specialized into subspecies (Mungall & Sheffield, 1994).

WHAT IS THE SCIENTIFIC TAXONOMY?

Classifications differ.  Accepted literature include the following for European Mouflon: Ovis musimon, Ovis orientalis musimom, Ovis aries musimom, and even Ovis aries (EOL, n. d.; Sanna, Barbato, Hadjisterkotis, Cossu, et al., 2015).

WHERE DO EUROPEAN MOUFLONS LIVE?

Mouflon Sheep are found running wild or feral in locations throughout the world but have dwindling populations in some places. European Mouflons exist on Corsica and Sardinia. Eventually, they were sent to various zoos and parks in the European continent and the United States (Mungall & Sheffield, 1994; Dohner, 2001).  Here in the United States, zoos eventually released some European Mouflons to private owners in the mid 1900’s.

DO EUROPEAN MOUFLON HAVE TO BE SHEARED?

European Mouflon sheep are shedding sheep, shedding their thicker winter coat in the springtime which seems to be more like the original sheep. Research indicates the need for shearing sheep (because the “wool” sheep do not naturally shed their wool) is a result of selective breeding through the years by breeders to increase and improve wool for use in fabrics (Dohner, 2001).

EUROPEAN MOUFLONS AS PARENTS TO NEW AMERICAN BREEDS:

Not only are European Mouflon sheep a wonderful breed worthy of preservation and study, but they are also ancestors to sheep breeds in the United States. European Mouflon, along with wool sheep breeds (Rambouillet, Navajo Churro, Jacob, Horned Merino) as well as the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep, were utilized in the 1900s to create new breeds of sheep: American Blackbelly, Black Hawaiian, Corsican, Desert Sand, Painted Desert, and Texas Dall.

Originally, the European Mouflon and the new sheep breeds were primarily used for “Trophies” due to the rams’ beautiful horns.  As the popularity of the sheep increases, the focus has become on achieving recognition for these sheep for other markets such as meat, show, pasture/fence line clearing, etc., and for simply being unique sheep deserving of recognition as individual breeds.

References

Bunch, T. D., & Nguyen, T. C. (1982). Blood group comparisons between European mouflon sheep and north American desert bighorn sheep.(Abstract) Journal of Heredity. 73(2). pp. 112-114.  Retrieved from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7096977

Dohner, Janet Vorwald. (2001) The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds. Yale University Press: New Haven and London.

EOL (n. d.). Ovis aries, Domestic Sheep.  Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved from http://eol.org/pages/311906/overview

Hiendleder, S., Kaupe, B., Wassmuth, R., Janke, A. (2002).  Molecular analysis of wild and domestic sheep questions current nomenclature and provides evidence for domestication from two different subspecies. The Royal Society (269)i   pp 893-904.  doi:10.1098/rspb.2002.1975

Hiendleder, S., Mainz, K. Plante, Y., & Lewalski, H. (1998).  Analysis of mitochondrial DNA indicates that domestic sheep are derived from two different ancestral maternal sources: No evidence for contributions from Urial and Argali sheep.  Journal of   Heredity (89). pp. 113-120.

Mungall, E. C. (2007) Exotic Animal Field Guide.  Texas A& M University Press, College Station: 2007.

Mungall, E. C. & Sheffield, W. J. (1994)  Exotics on the Range: The Texas Example.  Texas A&M University Press:College Station 1994.  NOTE: this book contains a good bibliography for a starting place to look for more information.  Studies on items   such as Mouflon and Rambouillet tail lengths have been conducted.

Sanna, D., Barbato, M., Hadjisterkotis, E., Cossu, P., Decandia, L., Trova, S., Piratru, M., Leoni, G. G., Naitana, S., Francalacci, P., Massala, B., Manca, L, & Mereu, P. (2015). The first mitogenome of the Cyprus mouflon (Ovis gmelini ophion): New   insights into the phylogeny of the Genus Ovis. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0144257. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144257

Toweill, D. E., & Geist, V. (1999). Wild Sheep of North America. Missoula, MT: Boone and Crockett Club and Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.


History of the Multi-horned Hair Sheep

A HISTORY

Because of the influence of Jacob and Navajo-Churro Sheep (wool breeds), certain bloodlines of Painted Desert, Texas Dall, Black Hawaiian, Desert Sand, and Corsican Sheep have displayed more than two horns (Polycerate horns). The sheep which visibly display the polycerate horns have been tracked in the UHHSA pedigrees using the designation MH for the multi-horned sheep.

Some breeders have singled the multi-horned sheep out and bred pedigrees with nothing but shedding sheep that are producing and/or displaying 3, 4, 5, and 6 horns. Breeders are also working hard to overcome the sex link gene(s) which result(s) in polled ewes which produce multi-horned sheep. The goal is to produce ewes which will display either 2 or more horns while continuing to shed their winter coats and exhibit a slick summer hair coat so shearing remains unnecessary.

In 2012, the Board of Directors of the United Horned Hair Sheep Association chose to recognize the efforts of the multi-horned hair sheep breeders by creating a single, unique breed division specifically for multi-horned hair sheep without regard to color or color pattern displayed. While some of these special sheep may still be recorded/registered as Painted Desert, Texas Dall, Black Hawaiian, Corsican, or Desert Sand Sheep if they meet the breed standards and registration requirements of those breeds, many breeders simply prefer to keep their multi-horned sheep as an unique and separate but related breed.

Recognizing the Multi-horned breed is in it’s infancy stage, the Board of Directors chose to allow breeders the opportunity to produce the best multi-horned sheep possible.  The Board of Directors chose to define the background of registerable Multi-horned Sheep as those sheep with only the following hair/shedding sheep breeds in the known background/pedigrees: Painted Desert, Texas Dall, Black Hawaiian, Desert Sand, Mouflon, Corsican, American Blackbelly, Wiltshire Horn, NM Dahl, and NM Onate Sheep.

Bighorn and Alaskan Dall sheep are not allowed in recent known pedigrees.

Some breeders may have used wool breeds in the known sheep background/pedigrees.  These wool breeds are limited to the following wool sheep breeds: Jacob, Horned Rambouillet, Merino (Horned), Horned Dorset, Navajo-Churro, and Manx.  However, registerable Multi-horned Sheep must contain 1/8th or less wool breeds, display a hair coat and shed completely.

Sheep which have polled sheep breeds or other sheep breeds in the known pedigrees do not meet the other breed division requirements.

With setting definitions of the breed, UHHSA hopes to enable Multi-horned Sheep breeders to utilize the best sheep to create and fulfill their breeding goals.  Now all of these multi-horned and multi-horn producing sheep will have a well-deserved place with UHHSA.

Multi-horned and multi-horned producing sheep which are registered with another recognized registry are qualified for registration in the UHHSA Multi-horned Hair Sheep Breed Registry providing UHHSA Breed Standards and Registration Requirements are met.

Sheep which are dual registered with other recognized registries may also be dually registered with UHHSA as long as UHHSA Breed Standards and Registration Requirements are met.  Please read carefully the registration requirements/standards of the breed divisions to determine if your sheep meets the requirements for dually registered sheep.  UHHSA registered Painted Desert Sheep, Texas Dall Sheep, Black Hawaiian Sheep, Corsican Sheep, and Desert Sand Sheep which display 3 or more horns may be dually registered as Multi-horned Hair Sheep if desired.

OFFICIAL BREED RECOGNITION

At the membership meeting held January 26, 2013, the membership voted to recognize and add the Multi-horned Hair Sheep Registry Division to UHHSA, Inc, in official recognition and acceptance of multi-horned breed efforts.


History of the New Mexico Dahl Sheep

A HISTORY

New Mexico Dahl White and Oñate Sheep should not be confused with Alaska Dahl or Texas Dall Sheep.  They have separate and distinct origins and history.  Alaska Dahl sheep are wild mountain sheep native to Alaska while domestic Texas Dall sheep were created in the mid 1900’s by crossing a hair sheep breed, Mouflon, with a woolen Rambouillet breed.  The New Mexico Dahl sheep have much deeper roots in American History.  

According to John Baxter’s book “Los Carneradas”, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado y Luján brought sheep in 1540 seeking the mystical Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. Coronado and his supporters sank a fortune in his ill-fated enterprise taking 1300 horses and mules for riding and packing and hundreds of head of sheep and cattle as a portable food supply. Much to his chagrin, Coronado’s greatest legacy was his loss of unknown quantities of sheep, horses and cattle into the remote recesses of wild American Southwest.

When Don Juan de Oñate came with colonists to establish settlements in this vast land they brought 4000 sheep and began the first cowboy ranching and livestock industry in Nuevo Mexico. Nuevo Mexico exported salt, piñon and hides. On January 26, 1598, Don Juan de Oñate left Zacatecas, Mexico and arrived in the Kingdom of New Mexico April 30, 1598 to establish the first significant infusion of colonists, a settlement in the New Mexico Kingdom; (Jamestown was founded in 1607 in Virginia, and the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth MA in 1620). By 1827 the NM sheep industry had grown to one quarter of a million sheep, with 65% being in the Alburquerque area.

Many hardships were endured by the individuals raising and trading livestock. There was experimentation with less hardy breeds, and the 1828 epidemic break out which affected the sheep industry in Durango, Mexico. Two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) head were lost which made the long and dangerous trip profitable for New Mexico sheep herders who presumably raised a hardier breed.

The Candelaria family tried to improve the breed with merinos because their wool had more lanolin but their hooves were too soft and they could not adapt to the rough New Mexico terrain. Spanish archives show that Spanish expedition planners investigated years in advance and invested vast personal fortunes into the planning and preparation of their expeditions.  That is well documented.

A key element of survival and success is the advance planning of food and water supply.  Any such undertaking would have certainly begged the question, what kind of animal has the stamina to endure the unknown and yet untold distances of the new world, and inherent in their own ability to survive hardship, thusly keep us alive?  Willful goats and pigs have their own ideas and are more labor intensive.  The lives of Coronado and his men depended on the survival of his food source on the hoof.  

Hair sheep could go where cattle and woolen sheep could not so these hair sheep were the best bet and obvious choice for Coronado.    Clearly, the hair sheep were the best gamble for expeditions like that of Coronado.  Given the legacy of Coronado and others like him, these ancestors of the New Mexico Dahl sheep have long been true to this hardiness claim. They have over the past quarter century reemerged, and are extant today.  This is one of nature’s miracles and a credit to the ranchero planners and breeders of anonymity and antiquity.

As a boy I loved spending summers with my grandparents learning the old ways of ranching and farming; participating in Matanzas and growing beans, chile, corn, and melons.  My grandfather Epifanio Chavez used to recount stories of our Spanish ancestors settling Tome, NM, Belen, Lemitar, Polvadera, and San Acacia, NM areas of Valencia County.  An avid student of cowboy history, I bought out my family member’s interests in our Belen and Polvadera, NM family farms in the 1980s.  

Picking up raising hair sheep where my father and grandfathers left off in the cattle and sheep ranching tradition that brought fifteen generations of cowboy culture to the cradle of the West, the Kingdom of New Mexico with Don Juan de Oñate in 1598, on a Belen, New Mexico farm (in my mother’s family since 1740 {Belen Land Grant}), I scoured sale barn livestock auctions for hair sheep in general with an eye on a particular hair sheep that an old cowboy Mr. Morris already retired in Los Lunas called “Barbidoes.”  The name Barbidoes, although I suspect a corruption of the widely recognized Barbados hair sheep that Mr. Morris owned did not have the same characteristics of Barbados or Blackbelly hair sheep.  The typical Barbados sheep in those days had brown hair with black underbellies.  Blackbelly/Barbado rams sported classic horns curling close to the face.  Ewes were polled.

Mr. Morris’ sheep were both white, and some solid gray in color. They were large, and both ewes and rams sported horns curling away from the face.  Mr. Morris was elderly and often bedridden and narrated many long histories of his old cowboy days including the origins of some of his unique sheep, some of which he acquired from ranchers selling off feral sheep included in cattle round ups high in the NM Sierra’s above 10,000 feet.  I bought as many of these intriguing sheep as possible and began studying Spanish Archives, old family journals, and questioning old timers selling similar looking sheep at livestock auctions in the Alburquerque south valley, Los Lunas, and Belen.  Finding a link between these sheep and the sheep brought by Coronado, I realized that these sheep were of a distinctive origin and history from the other hair sheep and began selectively breeding out the outcrossing traits of wool, coloring, and other non-typical characteristics of what I call New Mexico Dahl Hair sheep in an effort to save and preserve this lost piece of living Spanish history.

Now in the twenty-first century, with the depletion and growing shortage of natural resources, once more plentiful such as water and farmland, the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, and the exponential growth of the human population (seven billion as of October 2011) these resource luxuries we have come to depend on, are quickly growing more and more scarce.  As such, a new era where we return to the hardy, prolific, and low maintenance food product is again upon us.  Thanks to a few intrepid NM Dahl sheep left to their own devices feral in nature, they defied extinction over five hundred years, and have given us another chance to benefit. We cannot throw that opportunity away now.  
by  Donald A. Chavez y Gilbert

BREED RECOGNITION

At the membership meeting held January 26, 2013, the membership voted to recognize and add the New Mexico Dahl Sheep Registry Division to UHHSA, Inc, in official recognition and acceptance of the efforts of generations of shepherds in the New Mexico area to revive and maintain their heritage sheep.

In March 2013, the New Mexico House of Representatives voted in House Memorial 77 to recognize the New Mexico Dahl as a Heritage Breed!!!!   

County Acknowledgment of
NM Dahl Sheep as a Heritage Breed and the
efforts of local NM Dahl Sheep Breeders to
revitalize the Breed