The Merino sheep is a very important and popular breed of domestic sheep. It was originated in Spain and it is highly prized for it’s wool. The modern Merino sheep were domesticated in Australia and New Zealand. Sheep were introduced by the Phoenicians from Asia Minor into North Africa. And the foundation stocks of the Merino might have been introduced by the Marinids, a tribe of Berbers in Spain as late as the twelve century. Although there were reports of the breed in the Iberian peninsula before the arrival of the Marinids; perhaps these came from the Merinos or tax collectors of the Kingdom of León, who charged the tenth in wool, beef jerky and cheese.
The Spanish breeders introduced English sheep breeds, which they used and bred with the local sheep breeds for developing the Merino sheep in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This influence was openly documented by the Spanish writers at the time. Most of the flocks of these animals were owned by nobility or the church. And the flock grazed the southern plains of Spain in winter and the northern highlands in summer. The Merino sheep is the foundation stock of many well known and modern sheep breeds. And today, they are available in many countries, almost throughout the world. Read some more information about this sheep breed below.
Merino Sheep Characteristics
Merino sheep are medium sized animals with very beautiful appearance. They can be either polled or horned. The polled version has no horns, or has a very small stubs, known as scurs. And the horned version has long and spiral horns, which grow close to the head. Carcass size of these animals is usually smaller than that of the meat sheep breeds.
As a medium sized animal, average live body weight of the mature rams is around 80-105 kg. And the mature ewes on average weight around 55-80 kg. Photo and info from Wikipedia.
Merino sheep are wool sheep breed. They are raised primarily for wool production. But they are also good for meat production.
The Merino sheep are strong and hardy animals. They are well adapted to almost all climates and they are excellent forager. They need to be shorn at least once a year because their wool does not stop growing. If the coat is allowed to grow, it can cause heat stress, mobility issues and blindness. Wool of these animals is of very good quality, and the term ‘merino’ is widely used in the textile industries. Along with wool production, the breed is also pretty good for the production of lean meat. However, review full breed profile of the Merino sheep in the following chart.
Merino Sheep | Breed Profile
|Breed Purpose||Meat and wool|
|Special Notes||Very hardy and strong animals, well adapted to almost all climates, excellent foragers, need to be shorn at least once a year, wool is of very good quality, pretty good for meat production|
|Weight||Ewes weight around 55-80 kg, and mature ram’s weight can vary from 80 to 105 kg|
|Horns||Yes or polled|
|Climate Tolerance||Native climates|
|Country/Place of Origin||Spain|