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The shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep online

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bore a very meager fleece of coarse wool. It is probable that all
that part of the American continent which became subject to its
Spanish discoverers, including the islands of the West Indies, was
stocked with this common race. At that period the Spanish gov-
ernment very jealously guarded the Merino sheep, and forbade
their exportation, even to their own American colonies. It is
known, however, that a few Merinos were occasionally smuggled
into Peru, and that to these was due the superior character of the
wool of that country, which exists up to the present century.
Elsewhere, however, the character of the dominant race of sheep
was very inf erior, and it now so remains ; the imports of wool
from South America into the Uuited States being coarse in quality,
and rating only as among the third class. Of a similar character
to this is the race of sheep known in our western territories as
" Mexican." Their origin is clearly the same as that of the native
South American sheep, and their appearance is identical with that
of the sheep represented in ancient Spanish paintings as the ordi-
nary race of the country, the property of the peasantry. It may
be concluded as most probable, if not certain, that this race, one
of the ten primitive or distinct original races which inhabited Eu-
rope, as determined by Dr. Fitzinger, (whose classification is con-
firmed by other scientific men), unaltered by more than three
centuries of acclimatization, is now represented by the bulk of the
flocks which roam over Mexico, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona,
parts of California, and more recently Colorado. These sheep are
hardy, wiry animals, weighing about 40 pounds, and yielding when
unmixed with any Merino blood, a fleece of about two pounds of
coarse wool. Of late this inferior race has been improved to
some extent by crossing with pure Merinos from Vermont and
other eastern states, and is found to make an excellent basis
whereon to build up an improved and useful race. These sheep
are of but little value, and in flocks are sold and bought at about
$1.50 per head. The business of shipping rams westward to sup-
ply this demand, from almost every state where Merinos are kept,
has already reached respectable dimensions, and is rapidly increas-
ing. The result cannot fail to build up, in course of time, a valua-
ble class of native sheep well suited to these localities. These
improved sheep produce a fleece weighing about 4 pounds of grade
Merino wool, which will supply to a very great extent local manu-


factories of such woolen goods as are in demand in the western
country, and thus render the far western states independent, so
far as regards their supply of woolen manufactures, of the eastern

THE VIRGINIA SHEEP. A native race of greater pretensions,
and far greater value than the preceding, sprung from the first
importation of English sheep in Jamestown, Va., in 1609. The
original settlers of this new Dominion were in part men of wealth
and position. The stock they imported would naturally be of the
best that could be obtained, and the favorable climate of the
country for sheep-raising, would tend to preserve the sheep from
degradation. Repeated importations of excellent sheep were
made during the succeeding two centuries, by prominent Virgin-
ians, amongst whom were the Washingtons, and various members
of the Custis family. Thus was founded a class of more than
usually good, heavy bodied, long-wool sheep, which still exists and
is famed for producing excellent early market lambs. Of late
years considerable Leicester, Cotswold, and Southdown blood has
been mingled with the old stock. Although the Virginia sheep
can hardly claim to be considered as a distinct breed, yet they
certainly furnish a very good basis upon which, by careful selec-
tion and interbreeding, to found a breed thoroughly well adapted
to the locality, as they are already acclimated and possess estab-
lished qualities.

THE IMPROVED KENTUCKY SHEEP. An account of the efforts
which have been made to produce native varieties of sheep, would
not be complete without the mention of what has been called the
" Improved Kentucky Sheep." This breed or race originated with
Mr. Robert Scott, of Frankfort, Kentucky, who crossed the com-
mon native sheep of the locality, with Merino, Leicester, South-
down, Cotswold, and Oxford-down rams. This was begun about
40 years ago, by selecting 30 native ewes, which were bred
to a selected Merino ram. The yearling ewes of this cross were
bred to an imported Leicester ram. The ewes of this cross were
served by an imported ram of the Southdown breed. The pro-
duce of this cross were then bred to a ram of mixed blood, three-
fourths Cotswold and one-fourth Southdown. The next two
crosses were made by Cotswold rams, and the next by an Oxford-
down ram. The produce of the last cross were bred to Cotswold
rams again. This brought the flock up to 1855, when a mixed
Cotswold, Oxford, Leicester, and Southdown ram was brought
into service. After this the rams produced by this very mixed


breeding were used. In 1867 Mr. Scott furnished an account of
his sheep for the annual report of the Department of Agriculture
for 1866, in which he gave some very flattering testimonials which
he had received from various parties, to whom he had sold his
sheep, with pictures of rams and ewes of his flock. At that time
his flock consisted of about 200 ewes and 50 yearling rams. Since
then nothing further has been made public regarding this so-called
improved sheep. Unfortunately the system of breeding followed
by Mr. Scott could not have any definite or favorable result, as it
is opposed to all the principles from which favorable results could
have been anticipated. An animal thus produced could not be
anything else than a mongrel, and although it might at first pre-
sent a promising appearance, yet no certain characteristics could
be expected to appear in its progeny. No such hasty process as
this could be made permanent, for there had been no fixed type
produced by any of the crosses upon which to build a further cross,
to be in turn fixed permanently upon the race. No " breed " has
ever been thus produced, nor can a " breed " by any possibility be
established by this course of breeding while physiological laws re-
main in force. This example is here cited as a warning and a
caution, rather than as one to be followed by those persons who
have an ambition to found a new or improved breed of sheep.

THE AMERICAN MERINO. One of the most successful instances
of the fortuitous results of sheep breeding, exists in the establish-
ment of the American Merino. In a Treatise upon the Australian
Merino, by J. R. Graham, superintendent of an extensive sheep
station on the Murray River, (published in Melbourne, in 1870),
the following testimony is given : " Of all imported sheep, those
of our first cousins, the Americans, are the best. The best rams
imported into Melbourne of late years were some American rams."
This coming from so capable a judge, and in competition with the
best selections of Merino sheep to be procured elsewhere in the
world, may be taken without question as proof that the American
Merino is the best sheep of its class in the world. It is therefore
interesting to trace the course through which this breed has been
brought to its present excellence, which enables it to stand alone
on its own merits, beyond any capability of further improvement
by any variety of Merino sheep now existing in any part of the

The history of the American Merino commences with the
present century, and with importations of choice sheep from
Spain. The honor of the first importation seems to belong to Mr.
William Foster, of Boston, who managed, " with much difficulty


and risk," to bring with him from Cadiz, two ewes and one ram.
Unfortunately his enterprise came to naught, for presenting these
valuable and costly sheep to a friend, this friend made them into
mutton and ate them. This same friend afterwards paid $1,000
for a Merino ram. One ram was imported in 1801, and was used
on the farm of a French gentleman, Mr. Delessert, near Kingston,
N. Y. This animal weighed 138 Ibs., and his fleece, well washed
in cold water, weighed 8 Ibs. 8 ozs. He was a very fine ram, and
finally founded a valuable flock on the farm of E. J. Dupont, near
Wilmington, Del. Later hi the same year, Mr. Seth Adams, of
Zanesville, Ohio, imported a pair of Spanish Merinos, which re-
ceived a premium at the fair of the Massachusetts Agricultural
Society the next year. In 1802 Mr. Livingston, the American
Minister to France, sent two pairs of French Merinos home to his
farm on the Hudson Kiver. In 1807, Mr. Livingston imported
some choice Spanish ewes from France, and in 1808, his flock be-
gan to acquire a wide reputation, his rams selling for $150 each,
and half-blood ewes and rams for $12 each. In 1802, Colonel
Humphreys, the American Minister to Spain, sent 25 rams and 75
ewes, selected from the choicest flocks in Spain, to Derby, Con-
necticut. From what particular family of Merinos these sheep were
selected, does not appear, the evidence, however, seems to point to
the fact that they were Infantados, or sheep from tlie flock of the
Duke of Infantado, one of the chief grandees of Spain at that
period. This flock was bred and improved by Col. Humphreys,
with much success. At the death of this gentleman, in 1818, his
flock was scattered, and only two or three then obscure farmers had
the luck, or precaution, to preserve them pure and distinct. On
the rise of the Merinos into their future high reputation, these for-
tunate persons were brought into notice as the possessors of flocks
of pure Merino sheep. But the most extensive and noteworthy
importation, and that which gave form and character to the
American Merinos, was that of the Hon. Wm. Jarvis, the Ameri-
can Consul at Lisbon, in 1809 and 1810. This consisted of 3,850
sheep of the flocks of Paulars, Negrettis, Aqueirres, and Montarcos
of Spain. These flocks, consisting of nearly 50,000 head, had
been, for political reasons, confiscated and sold by the Spanish
government, with other property of the four grandees who had
owned them.

Of the imported sheep, 1,500 came to New York, 1,000 to Bos-
ton, and the remainder to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Alexandria,
Norfolk, Richmond, Portland, Wiscasset, and Portsmouth. An-
other shipment of 2,500 followed in 1810, and were distributed


between New York and Boston. These sheep were of the prime
flocks of Spain, and Spain's loss was our gain. Mr. Jarvis re-
served 350 of the sheep for his own use. A few other minor im-
portations of Spanish sheep were made by other parties in 1810 and
1811. The knowledge that we had thus obtained the very best
sheep in the world, started a speculative fever, which was increased
by the war with England in 1812, when Merino wool sold for
$2.50 a pound. Imported rams were eagerly purchased for $1,000
to $1,500 each, and ewes sold for $1,000 a head. Many flocks of
pure or grade sheep were started in all parts of the country, and
much care was taken in the breeding of them. This lasted until
the peace of 1815, when sheep that were valued at $1,000 a head,
in 1809, sold for $1.00, and of course all interest in breeding then
ceased. Afterwards, under the stimulus of various protective tar-
iffs, the business revived, and fine wool-growing again attracted

In 1824, 77 Saxon Merino sheep were imported by G. & T.
Searle, of Boston, and this was followed by several other importa-
tions by the same parties. By bad management much loss resulted
to the importer;., and in consequence of the poor quality of the
sheep, the whole business was a failure for all coocerned, includ-
ing the purchasers. The inferiority of the Saxon breed was mani-
fest, and these sheep, which yielded a fleece of but 2- to 3 Ibs. per
head, could not compete with the Spanish sheep, which produced
4J- Ibs. of well washed wool per head, of nearly equal value, al-
though not quite so fine as the Saxon wool. The Saxon sheep
have all disappeared since 1846. Then the American Merino came
into general favor. This class of sheep, in 1840 to 1845, consisted
of several families of distinctly marked varieties, due chiefly to the
various courses of breeding followed by their several owners. The
distinguishing peculiarities of these families consisted mainly in
their size and hight of carcass, length and fineness of wool, the
pendulous dewlaps and skinfolds of the rams, and the amount of
yolk in the fleece, and its consequent greater weight and darker
color. Up to the period in question, the choicest flocks were to
be found in New England, on account of the greater care there
taken in breeding. Some of the Connecticut and Vermont breed-
ers had taken great pains to improve their flocks, and much emu-
lation existed amongst them in this respect. Gradually, differ-
ences became merged and blended by the continued purchase of
rams by the owners of defective flocks, from the more careful
breeders, and finally only the two families, the Paulars and the
Infantados continued to be bred as distinct in all parts of the



country. Since then these separate families, their crosses, and those
between them and other pure flocks, have been greatly improved.
The carcass has become larger and heavier, and the fleece has
been increased in weight. This is shown by the following table,
taken from a more extensive one published about 70 years ago by
Petri, who visited Spain for the express purpose of examining the
Spanish sheep, and from some measurements made by the Hon.
H. S. Randall, of Cortland, K Y., and published in his valuable
work on " Fine Wool Sheep Husbandry," as well as from number-
less well authenticated weights of fleeces. The table is as follows :


Negretti Ram

" Ewe

Infantaclo Ram

" Ewe

Guadeloupe Ram

" Ewe

Estantes of Sierra de Somo Ram.
H tt tt K u Ewe.
Small Estantes Ram. . .


American Merino Ram



" " Ewe...








8 8


These differences, it will be observed, occur in those respects
which add greatly to the value of the animal, the heavier weights
of carcass, the shorter neck, the shorter legs, and the very greatly
increased width of loin. All these points of improvement tend to
show an animal of excellent physical vigor and constitution.

As to the fleece : in 1800 to 1813, the imported Merinos yielded
3 to 4 Ibs. of brook-washed wool, in the ewe, and 6 to 7 Ibs. in the
ram. The heaviest fleeced ram imported, that of Mr. Dupont,
produced 8 Ibs. of brook- washed wool. In 1845 the product had
increased to 5 Ibs. for some small flocks, and 9 Ibs. for rams. Mr.
Stephen Atwood, of Vermont, reported in this year that his heavi-
est ewe's fleece was 6 Ibs. 6 oz., and his heaviest ram's fleece, 12
Ibs. 4 oz. In 1849, a ram, belonging to Mr. Randall, produced 13
Ibs. 3 oz. of well washed wool. Up to this period the Merinos
had been under a heavy cloud, and improvement had not occurred
so rapidly as it has done since then. The weights of the fleeces of


those early days of the American Merinos are far surpassed now,
and the average of some small flocks reaches over 10 pounds of
washed wool. Many remarkable reports of recent shearings might
be selected from various agricultural journals, which go to show
a greatly increased production of wool per head, and the reports
may doubtless be accepted as in the main correct. In the Ohio
Farmer of June 19th, 1875, are reported weights of some fleeces of
pure-bred American Merinos, viz : of a flock of 44, an aged ram's
fleece weighed 20 pounds ; 34 yearling ewes' fleeces weighed 410
Ibs. 3 oz., an average of over 12 pounds, and 9 aged ewes' fleeces,
108 Ibs. 7 oz., an average of 12 pounds. The wool was 3 inches
long, of a clear white color, and therefore free from excessive
yolk. Also of a flock of 80 ; 19 ram lambs, average age 13J-
months, sheared 325J Ibs., average 17 Ibs. 2 oz. per fleece; 13
rams, 2 to 6 years old, sheared 225, or 17 Ibs. 5 oz. per fleece ; 48
ewes produced 668 Ibs. 6 oz., or 14 Ibs. nearly per fleece. The
extreme weights of the ram lambs' fleeces were from 14 Ibs. to 20
Ibs. ; of the rams, 14 Ibs. to 24 Ibs. 4 oz., and of the ewes, 12 Ibs. .
to 18 Ibs. These fleeces, being doubtless unwashed, would shrink
one-third in washing. In the Michigan Farmer of July, , 1875,
the weight of 16 fleeces is reported at 168 Ibs. of washed wool,
an average of 10i Ibs. each ; 10 ewes yielded 91 Ibs.. ; 3 yearling-
rams produced 45 J- Ibs., and three yearling ewes 32 Ibs. The
Detroit Tribune, about the same time, reports a flock of 43
ewes and wethers which produced 399 Ibs., an average of
about 9^ Ibs. of washed wool. Seven yearling rams sheared
lOOi Ibs., being 13 months' growth of wool; one of these fleeces
weighed 15 Ibs., and the sheep after shearing weighed 49 Ibs. One
6-year ram sheared 19 Ibs. unwashed wool. Another flock of 33
ewes produced 318 Ibs. of wool, washed on the sbeeps' backs 9
days previously. These reports are selected at haphazard, upon
casually glancing over a few of the papers which are in the habit
of publishing news of this character, sent by known correspond-
ents. In all these cases the names and addresses are given with
the reports, but are withheld here, as they are in no way excep-
tional, or surpass the reports of the flocks of numberless other
farmers or breeders. Indeed, many thoroughly trustworthy re-
ports are constantly being given of greater weights of fleece than
any of these. The following reports of the weights of the premi-
um fleeces sheared at the annual meeting of the American Wool-
Growers' Association of 1875, may be given as finally conclusive
of the fact under consideration, viz : the gradual improvement and
present high value of the American Merino in the hands of Ameri-


can breeders, until it has now no superior in the world as a wool
bearer, or as an improver of inferior races of sheep.

Weight of Sheep. Weight of Fleece. Age of Fleece.

1st Premium Ram ... 180 54 Ibs. 29 Ibs. 11 mo. 21 d:iys.

2nd " " 148 Ibs. 23 Ibs. 13 oz. 1 yr. 4 "

1st " Ewe 108 Ibs. 17lbs. 3 oz. 11 mo. 22 "

2-yr. old Ewe uot entered for pr. 22 Ibs. 8 oz. 1 yr. 5 "

It is impossible, in the limited space that can be here devoted to
this breed, to rehearse the means by which these sheep have been
gradually brought to this excellence. For these details the reader
who would study the subject of fine-wool sheep breeding, is referred
to the excellent work of Mr. Randall before referred to, in which
it is treated of at length. The portrait on the next page gives
a remarkably accurate general view of a first class American
Merino ram. It represents the ram " Golden Fleece," bred and
owned by E. S. Stowell, Cornwall, Vermont

The description of a high brel American Merino, of such excel-
lence as may be readily found in numerous flocks at the present
time, may be. summed up as follows, giving prominence to the
several most important characteristics, viz :

TJie Carcass should be plump, medium size, round, deep, not
long in proportion to roundness, the head and neck short and
thick ; the back should be straight and broad, the breast and but-
tock full ; the legs short, well apart, an9 strong, with heavy fore-
arm and full twist. This compact figure indicates a hardy con-
stitution, ease of keeping, and good feeding properties.

Skin. The skin should be of a deep rich rose-color, thin, mel-
low, loose, and elastic on the body. This indicates a healthy, well
conditioned animal. A pale or tawny skin indicates impurity of
blood, or at least weakness of constitution, and is therefore ob-

Folds and Wrinkles. These are permissibb to a certain extent.
The fashion in this regard has doubtless passed beyond the bounds
of wisdom, and excessive wrinkling or folding of the skin is un-
sightly and useless, if not worse. In shearing, it causes a waste of
time, and gives no adequate return in wool. A deep, soft, plaited
dewlap on both ewes and rams, and some slight wrinkles on the
neck of the ram, satisfied the early breeders in this respect While
heavy neck-folds on the ram, and short ones back of the elbow
and on the rump, are tolerated by breeders at the present time, yet
it is simply fashion, and adds nothing to the value of the animal,
but on the contrary is dearly paid for in the increased cost of
shearing. An exception to this may be taken in respect of rams




to be used in improving the poor, smooth-skinned native race
common on the western plains, in which case a heavy yolked and
much wrinkled ram may be found desirable.

The Fleece. A sheep bred exclusively, or chiefly, for wool^ must
necessarily be valued in proportion to the value of the fleece. The
wool of a pure-bred Merino of any value, should stand at right
angles to the skin, presenting a dense, smooth, even surface on the
exterior, opening nowhere but in those natural cracks or divisions
which separate the fleece into masses. These masses should not
be small in size, or they indicate excessive fineness of fleece ; a "
quarter of an inch is the limit in this respect ; nor too large, lest
the wool be coarse and harsh. The length should be such as, corn^
bined with thickness of staple, will give the greatest weight of
fleece. Medium wool is generally in greater demand than fine
wool, and it is more profitably produced. Two to three inches is
probably the most desirable length of fleece for profit. A change,
however, is taking place in this respect, since the practice of
combing Merino wool has become general, and three inches
and over is a frequently desired length of fiber. It is not
desirable to have the face covered with wool long enough to fold
up in the fleece. If the eyes are covered with such wool, the sheep
is either blinded, or the wool must be kept clipped close. The
ears should be small, with a coat of soft mossy hair about half
way to the roots, and for the remainder, covered with wool. A
naked ear is very objectionable. Evenness in quality in every
part of the sheep is very desirable, if air growing up through the
wool on the thighs, the neck-folds, or scattered through the fleece
here and there, is not to be allowed. The wool should be sound,
that is, of even strength from end to end of the fiber. It should
be highly elastic and wrinkled, curved or wavy. The number of
these curls, or waves, to the inch, is not so much a test of excel-
lence as their regularity and beauty of curvature. A folding back
of the fiber upon itself is not so desirable as a gentler curve. (See
Chapter on Wool).

Pliancy and Softness to the feeling in handling, is an excellent
test of quality, so much prized by manufacturers, that practiced
buyers will sometimes form an accurate judgment of a fleece by
handling it in the dark with gloved hands.

Yolk. To what extent the yolk should exist in the wool of the
Merino, is a matter of dispute, and in some degree a matter of
taste. A certain portion of yolk is absolutely necessary to the
existence of a good fleece, and beyond this it is questionable if any


excess of yolk answers any good purpose. This is considered at
some length in the Chapter on Wool, where it naturally belongs.
When it is in such excessive quantity as in a fleece which weighed
19| Ibs, before washing, and only 4 Ibs. afterwards, it is decidedly
objectionable, except in the case of a rain chosen to impart greater
yolkiness to a flock which is deficient in this respect. In general,
as wool is the object sought, no more yolk is necessary than the
quantity required to promote the growth of the fleece and lo keep
it in good condition, soft, pliant, and thoroughly well lubricated.


Long-wool sheep are properly natives of the rich low-lands of
England, which are productive of abundant, succulent, nutritious
pasture. But there have been great improvements in agriculture
during the past century, which have enabled fanners lo produce
enormous crops of clover, artificial grasses, and roots, and to pur-
chase large supplies of rich concentrated foods, such as the various
oil-cakes. As one result of this improved agriculture, the long-
wool sheep have been taken from the alluvial lands where they

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Online LibraryHenry StewartThe shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep → online text (page 9 of 23)