Rare Sheep Breed Information
The Critical Rare Breeds:
The Florida Cracker is one of the oldest breeds of sheep in North America. It is believed that these sheep developed from sheep that the Spanish first brought to the southeastern United States in the 1500's.
Twice a year they were rounded up for shearing and to mark lambs. In the middle of the last century, the emphasis on high input agriculture caused the sheep industry to turn to breeds of sheep, which were larger in size and produced more wool and meat. This caused the numbers of Florida Cracker sheep to decline dramatically endangering its very existence. Now, with renewed interest in low-input sustainable agriculture, interest in Florida Cracker sheep is increasing once again.
The wool has an average micron 27 and creates a soft springy white yarn that is a joy to work with and spin.
Gulf Coast Native:
Gulf Coast sheep, also known as Gulf Coast Native sheep, Woods sheep, and Native sheep, descend from the Spanish flocks brought to the New World by explorers and settlers beginning in the 1500s.
These sheep fit their challenging environment so well that for centuries they were the only sheep to be found in the deep South, providing wool and meat for home production. The development of anti-parasite medications in the 1900s allowed the introduction of other, larger, more productive sheep breeds to the Southeast. Gulf Coast sheep were slowly discarded by most farmers; the breed was saved only through the action of a few Southern families.
Wool quality is variable. Care of the wool as a crop is coming along as a priority, and the breed can be a source of nice wool that sometimes falls within the next-to-skin comfort levels. Average micron count is 26-32 Single-coated fleece; open, wavy, and/or crimpy fibers; low in grease.
Hog Island is a barrier Island off the coast of Virginia & is where the colonists lived & grazed their sheep in the 1700’s.
The sheep are a small, hardy breed that were allowed to roam the island. In the 1930’s several hurricanes & storms hit the island. The inhabitants fled with their sheep to the safety of the mainland. The Hog Island sheep that were left on the island became feral & survived until 1974 when the Nature Conservancy purchased the island & removed the sheep to allow the native grasses to survive.
Many of the sheep were moved to Mt. Vernon which still has the majority of the Hog Island Sheep population. It is reported that there may be only 200 Hog Island sheep in the world.
The Hog Island fleece that I am offering came from an interesting shepherdess and artist. Her name is Jenni-Jo and she has two Hog Island sheep. Their names are Knit and Purl and they came out of Mt. Vernon.
Most Hog Island sheep are white, only about 10% are black. Knit and Purl are Black Hog Island. The color of the wool is more gray than black.
Generally the wool is between 22-32 micron so it is fine to medium. The staple length is usually fairly short being 1.5” to 2.5”. The fleece holds together very well and it has a springy quality.
Because it is short, hand carding is probably the best way to process it. The yarn spun from the Hog Island will make a nice woolen yarn that will trap lots of air for a warm garment. You may find some fleece fine enough for next-to-skin softness but, the majority of the wool I have used was better for sweaters, socks or blankets.
The lustrous, low-lanolin, kemp-free fleece of the Teeswater is appreciated by hand spinners for its staple length and fine, long curly locks. Fiber growth is up to one inch per month with little to no cross fibering.
The Threatened Rare Breeds:
Black Welsh Mountain
Karakul - American
Romeldale / CVM
The Watch Rare Breeds:
In my search for St. Croix I contacted everyone possible to find some of this difficult to acquire fiber. Most farmers thought I was crazy to want it and others offered for me to come to their farms and collect it myself.
This is a hair breed that sheds its fiber in March and April. They are not allowed to shear them so the fiber must be brushed or just collected as it sheds.
Welcome to the Colorful World of Shetland Sheep!
Shetland wool has one of the widest ranges of colors of any breed, with 11 main colors ranging from white to gray to black and from light brown, reddish brown to dark brown. Shetland wool dyes beautifully. Shetlands may display more than 30 different markings.
The wool is soft, fine, silky, and durable and a delight to spin, knit or crochet. Shetland wool can be spun fine enough to make a shawl that can be drawn through a wedding ring!
Shetland sheep are considered a primitive or “unimproved” breed. This means that although they are small and relatively slow-growing, they maintain their natural hardiness, thriftiness, easy lambing, adaptability and longevity.
For more information check out: http://www.shetland-sheep.org