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The history of sheep breeding.

March – 2023 10 MINS READ
Sheep and human history
Do you like sheep? Whether you like them or not, sheep are one of humanity’s most important symbionts. And it is an animal that has saved many human lives. They are now docile and domesticated, but they have had a very long history leading up to this. In this article, we will study sheep, which have been a boon to mankind.
Sheep, or Ovis aries, are domesticated, ruminant mammals commonly raised as livestock. Although the term “sheep” can refer to other species in the Ovis genus, it is typically used to describe domesticated sheep. As members of the order Artiodactyla, or even-toed ungulates, sheep are part of a group of ruminants. Domestic sheep are the most numerous species of sheep, with a population of over one billion. Adult females are known as ewes (/juː/), intact males as rams, castrated males as wethers, and young sheep as lambs.
Sheep are thought to have descended from the wild mouflon found in Europe and Asia, with Iran being the likely domestication center. Sheep were among the earliest animals domesticated for agricultural purposes, and are raised for their wool, meat (lamb, hogget, or mutton), and milk. Sheep’s wool is the most widely used animal fiber and is harvested by shearing. In Commonwealth countries, ovine meat is called lamb when it comes from younger animals and mutton when from older ones, while in the United States, meat from both older and younger animals is usually called lamb. Sheep are also occasionally raised for pelts, as dairy animals, or as model organisms for scientific research. 
Sheep husbandry is practiced worldwide and has been a vital part of many civilizations. Modern sheep production is most commonly associated with Australia, New Zealand, the southern and central South American nations, and the British Isles. The lexicon of sheep husbandry includes numerous unique terms that vary considerably by region and dialect. Sheep have a deep cultural significance and are often associated with pastoral, Arcadian imagery. They also play a role in many mythologies, including the Golden Fleece, and are used as sacrificial animals in both ancient and modern religious rituals.
The exact lineage of domestic sheep from their wild ancestors is still unclear. The most commonly accepted theory is that domestic sheep (Ovis aries) descended from the Asiatic species of mouflon (O. gmelini), with the European mouflon (Ovis aries musimon) being a direct descendant. Sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated by humans, with an estimated domestication date between 11,000 and 9,000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, and possibly as early as 7,000 B.C. in Mehrgarh in the Indus Valley. The rearing of sheep for secondary products and breed development began in southwest Asia or western Europe. Initially, sheep were kept for meat, milk, and skins only. Archaeological evidence suggests that woolly sheep were selected for as early as 6,000 B.C. in Iran, with the earliest woven wool garments dating to two to three thousand years later.
Sheep husbandry quickly spread throughout Europe. The Castelnovien people, living around Châteauneuf-les-Martigues near present-day Marseille in the south of France, were among the first in Europe to keep domestic sheep, as evidenced by excavations dating to about 6,000 B.C. During the Neolithic period of prehistory. Ancient Greek civilization relied heavily on sheep as their primary livestock, with individual animals even being named. Ancient Romans also kept sheep on a large scale and played a significant role in spreading sheep raising. Pliny the Elder’s Natural History speaks at length about sheep and wool. Sheep husbandry was spread to the New World by European colonists from 1493 onwards.
Cyprus mouflon (g.ophion ) ©wikicommons
The mouflon (Ovis gmelini) is a wild sheep native to Cyprus, the Caspian region from eastern Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran.[1] It is thought to be the ancestor of all modern domestic sheep breeds
The mouflon (Ovis gmelini) is a wild sheep native. It is thought to be the ancestor of all modern domestic sheep breedsMouflon has reddish to dark brown, short-haired coats with dark back stripes and black ventral areas and light-colored saddle patches. The males are horned; some females are horned, while others are polled. The horns of mature rams are curved almost one full revolution (up to 85 cm). Mouflon have shoulder heights of around 0.9 m and body weights of 50 kg (males) and 35 kg (females). Mouflon are found in the Lesser Caucasus in southeastern Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Iran’s western Alborz region and the Zagros Mountains spanning across eastern Iraq and western Iran. It was possibly introduced to Cyprus during the Neolithic period
Ovis aries musimon (European mouflon )
The European mouflon (Ovis aries musimon) is a feral subspecies of the primitive domestic sheep. It was originally found only on the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia, but has since been introduced into many other regions of Europe. It is not to be confused with Ovis gmelini, also called the mouflon, which is found in Western Asia and is also ancestral to modern domestic sheep.
It is uncertain whether the European mouflon became largely extinct in Europe due to the loss of its habitats and over-hunting between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago and survived solely in Corsica and Sardinia, or whether it was introduced into the Mediterranean basin during prehistoric times. Some zoologists argue that the European mouflon is not a true game species, but rather a descendant of an early race of domesticated sheep. This lineage can be traced back to the first stocks of sheep that were domesticated in the Levant and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean around 9000-8500 BCE, making it a “snapshot” of the first domestication of sheep that occurred nearly 10,000 years ago. Genetic evidence suggests that the European mouflon arrived in Corsica and Sardinia only around 7,000 years ago, alongside Neolithic peoples, as no earlier traces have been found.
Domestication of the sheep
The history of domestic sheep dates back to between 11,000 and 9,000 BC when the wild mouflon was domesticated in ancient Mesopotamia. Sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated by humans, primarily for their meat, milk, and skins. The development of woolly sheep began around 6,000 BC, and they were eventually imported to Africa and Europe through trade.
The precise evolutionary lineage between domestic sheep and their wild ancestors is uncertain. The most widely accepted hypothesis suggests that Ovis aries descended from the Asiatic species of mouflon (O. orientalis). Some breeds of sheep, such as the Castlemilk Moorit from Scotland, were produced through crossbreeding with wild European mouflon.It was once thought that the urial (O. vignei) was an ancestor of domestic sheep due to occasional interbreeding with mouflon in the Iranian region of their distribution. However, the urial, argali (O. ammon), and snow sheep (O. nivicola) possess a different number of chromosomes than other Ovis species, rendering a direct relationship unlikely. Phylogenetic studies have also found no evidence of urial ancestry. Further investigations comparing European and Asian sheep breeds have revealed significant genetic differences between them. Two potential explanations for this variation have been proposed. The first is the possibility of an unknown species or subspecies of wild sheep that contributed to the development of domestic sheep. The second explanation is that this variability resulted from multiple rounds of capture from wild mouflon, comparable to the formation of other domesticated animals.
Sheep were one of the earliest animals to be domesticated by humans, with the domestication estimated to have occurred between 11,000 and 8,000 BC in Mesopotamia. (although the domestication of dogs may be over 20,000 years earlier). They may have been domesticated independently in Mehrgarh in South Asia (in present-day Pakistan) around the 7th millennium BC. Their wild relatives have several characteristics, such as a relative lack of aggression, a manageable size, early sexual maturity, a social nature, and high reproduction rates, which made them particularly suitable for domestication. Today, Ovis aries is an entirely domesticated animal that is largely dependent on humans for its health and survival.Feral sheep do exist, but exclusively in areas devoid of large predators (usually islands) and not on the scale of feral horses, goats, pigs, or dogs, although some feral populations have remained isolated long enough to be recognized as distinct breeds.
The rearing of sheep for secondary products, and the resulting breed development, began in either southwest Asia or western Europe.Initially, sheep were kept solely for meat, milk and skins. Archaeological evidence from statuary found at sites in Iran suggests that selection for woolly sheep may have begun around 6000 BCE, and the earliest woven wool garments have been dated to two to three thousand years later.Before this, when a sheep was slaughtered for its meat, the hide would be tanned and worn as a kind of tunic. Researchers believe that the development of such clothing encouraged humans to live in areas far colder than the Fertile Crescent, where temperatures averaged 70 °F (21 °C). Sheep molars and bones found at Çatalhöyük suggest that populations of domestic sheep may have been established in the area. By that span of the Bronze Age, sheep with all the major features of modern breeds were widespread throughout Western Asia.
The residents of the ancient settlement of Jeitun, which dates to 6000 BCE, kept sheep and goats as their primary livestock. There have also been numerous identifications of Nomadic pastoralism in archaeological sites, identified by a prevalence of sheep and goat bones, a lack of grain or grain-processing equipment, very limited architecture showing a set of characteristic traits, a location outside the region’s zone of agriculture, and ethnographic analogy to modern nomadic pastoral peoples.
Vessel Supported by Two Rams, Mesopotamia, Sumerian, Early Dynastic IIIa, ca. 2600–2500 b.c., gypsum alabaster. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989; 1989.281.3.
The origins of written language can be traced back to Southern Mesopotamia around 3300 BC with the invention of cuneiform. Thousands of cuneiform texts, mostly written in Sumerian, provide an extensive record of the society and economy of this region. The majority of these texts are administrative records from the archives of large, state-run economic households that held almost all the resources, including arable land, orchards, reed-thickets, and livestock such as cattle, swine, sheep, and goats. These households provided for a large portion of the population and engaged in activities related to agriculture, horticulture, crafts, fishery, and breeding.
Around 5000 archaic texts from Uruk, which date from approximately 3300-2900 BC, provide further evidence of this society and economy. Although these texts were found in secondary contexts, they have been assigned to several offices controlled by the central administration, including one that dealt with domesticated animals and their products. These texts, along with smaller sets of archival records from other places in Southern Mesopotamia, provide the earliest written evidence of sheep husbandry and textile production.

The cuneiform texts demonstrate a fully-developed terminology that differentiates between sheep and goat according to sex, age, fertility, and race, including fat-tailed and wool sheep. These animals were of significant economic value and were usually referred to by a generic designation for sheep. The herding accounts found in these texts refer to flocks of sheep that typically consisted of around 70 animals. Shepherds were responsible for these flocks and were expected to deliver quotas of dairy products. They were also responsible for moving the flocks to nearby meadows and pastures. However, evidence for transhumance, or seasonal migration of flocks, is lacking. These herding accounts are representative of the lower levels of administration.

The summary accounts found in the cuneiform texts mention as many as 1400 sheep, as well as large quantities of wool and dairy products. The officials involved in these accounts were among the highest-ranking functionaries mentioned in a list of professions and functionaries. It is believed that this list represents the hierarchical organization of the Uruk state. Therefore, it appears that sheep husbandry and textile production were highly centralized and embedded in the state economy.

Although dairy products, wool, skins, and multi-colored textiles are referred to in both administrative and lexical texts, a complete reconstruction of the production of textiles is yet impossible. For example, the shearing of sheep, which was first attested in Early Dynastic I/II archival records from Ur around 2700 BC, is not referred to in these texts.

Sheep herding has been one of the main economic activities and lifestyles of Mongolians for millennia. Mongolian sheep herding traditions and modern science are well developed. Mongolian selection and veterinary science classifies the sheep herd of the country by (i) wool fiber’s length, thinness and softness, (ii) capability of surviving at various altitudes, (iii) physical appearance, tail form, size, and other criteria. The most common sheep breeds are Mongol Khalha, Gov-altai, Baidrag, Bayad, Uzenchin, Sumber and number of other breeds, all being of the fat-tailed family of breeds.A census of the entire domestic animals stock of the country is carried out annually. At the end of 2017, the census counted more than 30 million of sheep that makes up 45.5 percent of the entire herding stock.Annually before the Lunar New year the Government awards the prestigious “Best Herder” (in Mongolian “Улсын сайн малчин цол”) nomination to select herders.
In Africa
Sheep entered the African continent not long after their domestication in western Asia. A minority of historians once posited a contentious African theory of origin for Ovis aries. This theory is based primarily on rock art interpretations, and osteological evidence from Barbary sheep. The first sheep entered North Africa via Sinai, and were present in ancient Egyptian society between eight and seven thousand years ago.Sheep have always been part of subsistence farming in Africa, but today the only country that keeps significant numbers of commercial sheep is South Africa, with 28.8 million head.
In Ethiopia, there are several varieties of sheep landrace. Attempts have been made to classify the sheep based on factors such as tail shape and wool type, and H. Epstein made an attempt at classifying them this way by dividing the breeds into 14 types based on those two factors. However, in 2002, further genetic analysis revealed that there are only four distinct varieties of Ethiopian sheep: short-fat-tailed, long-fat-tailed, fat-rumped, and thin-tailed.
The spread of domestic sheep in North Africa could have begun with thin-tailed population from the Fertile Crescent via the Isthmus of Suez around 7000 years BP. Ryder reported that the first record of fat-tailed animals was attested from a stone vessel picture of 5000 years BP discovered in Uruk (Iraq). Fat-tailed populations came into North and Northeast Africa in a second wave via the Isthmus of Suez and the Horn of Africa across the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, respectively. However, the changes were not always in the direction of thin tail to fat tail. As demonstrated through an investigation carried out using SNP markers, Ahbara et al. indicated that the different tail forms in Ethiopian breeds may result from the introgression of the thin phenotype in ancestral fat-tailed breeds, or from the direct migration of thin-tailed populations.
Avenue of Sphinxes or The King’s Festivities Road, also known as Rams Road (Arabic: طريق الكباش) is a 2.7 km (1.7 mi) long avenue (dromos) which connects Karnak Temple with Luxor Temple having been uncovered in the ancient city of Thebes (modern Luxor), with sphinxes and ram-headed statues lined up on both flanks.
Sheep husbandry spread quickly in Europe. Excavations show that in about 6000 BCE, during the Neolithic period of prehistory, the Castelnovien people, living around Châteauneuf-les-Martigues near present-day Marseille in the south of France, were among the first in Europe to keep domestic sheep.Practically from its inception, ancient Greek civilization relied on sheep as primary livestock, and were even said to name individual animals. Scandinavian sheep of a type seen today — with short tails and multi-colored fleece — were also present early on. Later, the Roman Empire kept sheep on a wide scale, and the Romans were an important agent in the spread of sheep raising through much of Europe. Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (Naturalis Historia), speaks at length about sheep and wool. Declaring “Many thanks, too, do we owe to the sheep, both for appeasing the gods, and for giving us the use of its fleece.”, he goes on to detail the breeds of ancient sheep and the many colors, lengths and qualities of wool. Romans also pioneered the practice of blanketing sheep, in which a fitted coat (today usually of nylon) is placed over the sheep to improve the cleanliness and luster of its wool.
During the Roman occupation of the British Isles, a large wool processing factory was established in Winchester, England in about 50 CE.  By 1000 CE, England and Spain were recognized as the twin centers of sheep production in the Western world. As the original breeders of the fine-wooled merino sheep that have historically dominated the wool trade, the Spanish gained great wealth. Wool money largely financed Spanish rulers and thus the voyages to the New World by conquistadors.The powerful Mesta (its full title was Honrado Concejo de la Mesta, the Honorable Council of the Mesta) was a corporation of sheep owners mostly drawn from Spain’s wealthy merchants, Catholic clergy and nobility that controlled the merino flocks.By the 17th century, the Mesta held upwards of two million head of merino sheep.
Mesta flocks followed a seasonal pattern of transhumance across Spain. In the spring, they left the winter pastures (invernaderos) in Extremadura and Andalusia to graze on their summer pastures (agostaderos) in Castile, returning again in the autumn. Spanish rulers eager to increase wool profits gave extensive legal rights to the Mesta, often to the detriment of local peasantry.The huge merino flocks had a lawful right of way for their migratory routes (cañadas). Towns and villages were obliged by law to let the flocks graze on their common land, and the Mesta had its own sheriffs that could summon offending individuals to its own tribunals
The Merino is a breed or group of breeds of domestic sheep, characterised by very fine soft wool. It was established in Spain near the end of the Middle Ages, and was for several centuries kept as a strict Spanish monopoly; exports of the breed were not allowed, and those who tried risked the death penalty. During the eighteenth century, flocks were sent to the courts of a number of European countries, including France (where they developed into the Rambouillet), Hungary, the Netherlands, Prussia, Saxony, Estonia, Livonia and Sweden. The Merino subsequently spread to many parts of the world, including South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Numerous recognised breeds, strains and variants have developed from the original type; these include, among others, the American Merino and Delaine Merino in the Americas, the Australian Merino, Booroola Merino and Peppin Merino in Oceania, the Gentile di Puglia, Merinolandschaf and Rambouillet in Europe.The Australian Poll Merino is a polled (hornless) variant. Rams of other Merino breeds have long, spiral horns which grow close to the head, while ewes are usually hornless.
The three theories of the origins of the Merino breed in Spain are: the importation of north African flocks in the 12th century;its origin and improvement in Extremadura in the 12th and 13th centuries; the selective crossbreeding of Spanish ewes with imported rams at several different periods, so that its characteristic fine wool was not fully developed until the 15th century or even later.The first theory accepts that the breed was improved by later importation of north African rams and the second accepts an initial stock of north African sheep related to types from Asia Minor, and both claim an early date and largely north African origin for the merino breed.
Sheep were relatively unimportant in the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba, and there is no record of extensive transhumance before the caliphate’s fall in the 1030s. The Marinids, when a nomadic Zenata Berber tribe, held extensive sheep flocks in what is now Morocco, and its leaders who formed the Marinid Sultanate militarily intervened in southern Spain, supporting the Emirate of Granada several times in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Although they may possibly have brought new breeds of sheep into Spain,there is no definite evidence that the Marinids did bring extensive flocks to Spain. As the Marinids arrived as an intervening military force, they were hardly in a position to protect extensive flocks and practice selective breeding.
The third theory, that the Merino breed was created in Spain over several centuries with a strong Spanish heritage, rather than simply being an existing north African strain that was imported in the 12th century, is supported both by recent genetic studies and the absence of definitely merino wool before the 15th century. The predominant native sheep breed in Spain from pre-Roman times was the churro, a homogeneous group closely related to European sheep types north of the Pyrenees and bred mainly for meat and milk, with coarse, coloured wool. Churro wool had little value, except where its ewes had been crossed with a fine wool breed from southern Italy in Roman times. Genetic studies have shown that the Merino breed most probably developed by the crossing of churro ewes with a variety of rams of other breeds at different periods, including Italian rams in Roman times, north African rams in the mediaeval period, and English rams from fine-wool breeds in the 15th century.
Although Spain exported wool to England, the Low Countries and Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries this was only used to make cheap cloths. The earliest evidence of fine Spanish wool exports were to Italy in the 1390s and Flanders in the 1420s, although in both cases fine English wool was preferred. Spain became noted for its fine wool (spinning count between 60s and 64s) in the late 15th century, and by the mid-16th century its merino wool was acknowledged to equal that of the finest English wools.
The earliest documentary evidence for merino wools in Italy dates to the 1400s, and in the 1420s and 1430s, merino wools were being mixed with fine English wool in some towns in the Low Countries to produce high quality cloth. However, it was only in the mid-16th century that the most expensive grades of cloth could be made entirely from merino wool, after its quality had improved to equal that of the finest English wools, which were in increasingly short supply at that time.
Preserved mediaeval woollen fabrics from the Low Countries show that, before the 16th century, only the best quality English wools had a fineness of staple comparable to modern merino wool. The wide range of Spanish wools produced in 13th and early 14th centuries were mostly used domestically for cheap, coarse and light fabrics, and were not merino wools. Later in the 14th century, similar non-merino wools were exported from the northern Castilian ports of San Sebastián, Santander, and Bilbao to England and the Low Countries to make coarse, cheap cloth. The quality of Spanish wools exported increased markedly in the late 15th century, as did their price, promoted by the efforts of the monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella to improve quality.Spain built up a virtual monopoly in fine wool exports in the final decades of the 15th century and in the 16th century, creating a substantial source of income for Castile. In part, this was because most English wool was woven and made into textile goods within England by the 16th century, rather than being exported. Many of the Castillian merino flocks were owned by nobility or the church, although Alfonso X realised that granting the urban elites of the towns of Old Castile and León transhumant rights to would create an additional source of royal income and counteract the power of the privileged orders During the late 15th, 16th and early 17th century, two-thirds of the sheep migrating annually were held in flocks of less than 100 sheep and very few flocks exceeded 1,000 sheep. By the 18th century, there were fewer small owners, and several owners held flocks of more than 20,000 sheep, but owners of small to moderately-sized flocks remained, and the Mesta was never simply a combination of large owners
The transhumant sheep grazed the southern Spanish plains in winter and the northern highlands in summer. The annual migrations to and from Castile and León, where the sheep were owned and where they had summer pasturage, was organised and controlled by the Mesta along designated sheep-walks, or cañadas reales and arranged for suitable grazing, water and rest stops in these routes, and for shearing when the flocks started their return north.The three Merino strains that founded the world’s Merino flocks are the Royal Escurial flocks, the Negretti and the Paula. Among Merino bloodlines stemming from Vermont in the US, three historical studs were highly important: Infantado, Montarcos and Aguires. In recent times, Merino and breeds deriving from Merino stocks have spread worldwide. However, there has been a substantial decline in the numbers of several European Merino breeds, which are now considered to be endangered breeds and are no longer the subject of genetic improvement. In Spain, there are now two populations, the commercial Merino flocks, most common in the province of Extremadura and an “historical” Spanish Merino strain, developed and conserved in a breeding centre near Cordoba. The commercial Merino flocks show considerable genetic diversity, probably because of their cross-breeding with non-Spanish Merino-derived breeds since the 1960s, to create a strain more suitable for meat production.[33] The historical Spanish strain, bred from animals selected from the main traditional Spanish genetic lines to ensure the conservation of a purebred lineage, exhibits signs of inbreeding
Before the 18th century, the export of Merinos from Spain was a crime punishable by death. In the 18th century, small exportation of Merinos from Spain and local sheep were used as the foundation of Merino flocks in other countries. In 1723, some were exported to Sweden, but the first major consignment of Escurials was sent by Charles III of Spain to his cousin, Prince Xavier the Elector of Saxony, in 1765. Further exportation of Escurials to Saxony occurred in 1774, to Hungary in 1775 and to Prussia in 1786. Later in 1786, Louis XVI of France received 366 sheep selected from 10 different cañadas; these founded the stud at the Royal Farm at Rambouillet. In addition to the fine wool breeds mentioned, other breeds derived from Merino stocks were developed to produce mutton, including the French Ile de France and Berrichon du Cher breeds. Merino sheep were also sent to Eastern Europe where their breeding began in Hungary in 1774 The Rambouillet stud enjoyed some undisclosed genetic development with some English long-wool genes contributing to the size and wool-type of the French sheep. Through one ram in particular named Emperor – imported to Australia in 1860 by the Peppin brothers of Wanganella, New South Wales – the Rambouillet stud had an enormous influence on the development of the Australian Merino.
Sir Joseph Banks procured two rams and four ewes in 1787 by way of Portugal, and in 1792 purchased 40 Negrettis for King George III to found the royal flock at Kew. In 1808, 2000 Paulas were imported.A stud Merino ram that has been branded on his horn The King of Spain also gave some Escurials to the Dutch government in 1790; these thrived in the Dutch Cape Colony (South Africa). In 1788, John MacArthur, from the Clan Arthur (or MacArthur Clan) introduced Merinos to Australia from South Africa.
From 1765, the Germans in Saxony crossed the Spanish Merino with the Saxon sheep to develop a dense, fine type of Merino (spinning count between 70s and 80s) adapted to its new environment. From 1778, the Saxon breeding center was operated in the Vorwerk Rennersdorf. It was administered from 1796 by Johann Gottfried Nake, who developed scientific crossing methods to further improve the Saxon Merino. By 1802, the region had four million Saxon Merino sheep, and was becoming the centre for stud Merino breeding, and German wool was considered to be the finest in the world.
In 1802, Colonel David Humphreys, United States Ambassador to Spain, introduced the Vermont strain into North America with an importation of 21 rams and 70 ewes from Portugal and a further importation of 100 Infantado Merinos in 1808. The British embargo on wool and wool clothing exports to the U.S. before the 1812 British/U.S. war led to a “Merino Craze”, with William Jarvis of the Diplomatic Corps importing at least 3,500 sheep between 1809 and 1811 through Portugal.
The Napoleonic wars (1793–1813) almost destroyed the Spanish Merino industry. The old cabañas or flocks were dispersed or slaughtered. From 1810 onwards, the Merino scene shifted to Germany, the United States and Australia. Saxony lifted the export ban on living Merinos after the Napoleonic wars. Highly decorated Saxon sheep breeder Nake from Rennersdorf had established a private sheep farm in Kleindrebnitz in 1811, but ironically after the success of his sheep export to Australia and Russia, failed with his own undertaking.
Exportation of merinos without royal permission was also a punishable offense, thus ensuring a near-absolute monopoly on the breed until the mid-18th century. After the breaking of the export ban, fine wool sheep began to be distributed worldwide. The export to Rambouillet by Louis XVI in 1786 formed the basis for the modern Rambouillet (or French Merino) breed. After the Napoleonic Wars and the global distribution of the once-exclusive Spanish stocks of Merinos, sheep raising in Spain reverted to hardy coarse-wooled breeds such as the Churra, and was no longer of international economic significance.
The sheep industry in Spain was an instance of migratory flock management, with large homogenous flocks ranging over the entire country. The management model used in England was quite different but had a similar importance to economy of the country. Up until the early 20th century, owling (the smuggling of sheep or wool out of the country) was a punishable offense, and to this day the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords sits on a cushion known as the Woolsack.The high concentration and more sedentary nature of shepherding in the UK allowed sheep especially adapted to their particular purpose and region to be raised, thereby giving rise to an exceptional variety of breeds in relation to the land mass of the country. This greater variety of breeds also produced a valuable variety of products to compete with the superfine wool of Spanish sheep. By the time of Elizabeth I’s rule, sheep and wool trade was the primary source of tax revenue to the Crown of England and the country was a major influence in the development and spread of sheep husbandry.
An important event not only in the history of domestic sheep, but of all livestock, was the work of Robert Bakewell in the 18th century. Before his time, breeding for desirable traits was often based on chance, with no scientific process for selection of breeding stock. Bakewell established the principles of selective breeding—especially line breeding—in his work with sheep, horses and cattle; his work later influenced Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin.His most important contribution to sheep was the development of the Leicester Longwool, a quick-maturing breed of blocky conformation that formed the basis for many vital modern breeds.  Today, the sheep industry in the UK has diminished significantly, though pedigreed rams can still fetch around 100,000 Pounds sterling at auction
Wool has been a valuable raw material for thousands of years since the domestication of sheep. Even before the invention of shears, wool would have been harvested using a comb or just plucked out by hand. In medieval England, wool became big business. There was enormous demand for it, mainly to produce cloth, and everyone who had land, from peasants to major landowners, raised sheep.Whilst the English did make cloth for their own use, very little of what was produced was actually sold abroad. It was the raw wool from English sheep that was required to feed foreign looms. At that time, the best weavers lived in Flanders, and in the rich cloth-making towns of Bruges, Ghent, and Ypres. They were ready to pay top prices for English wool. Wool became the backbone and driving force of the Medieval English economy between the late thirteenth century and late fifteenth century, and at the time, the trade was described as “the jewel in the realm”! To this day, the seat of the Lord High Chancellor in the House of Lords is a large square bag of wool called the ‘woolsack,’ a reminder of the principal source of English wealth in the Middle Ages. The wool trade increased, and the great landowners, including lords, abbots, and bishops, began to count their wealth in terms of sheep. The monasteries, in particular, the Cistercian houses played a very active part in the trade, which pleased the king who was able to levy a tax on every sack of wool that was exported.
From the Lake District and Pennines in the north, down through the Cotswolds to the rolling hills of the West Country, across to the southern Downs and manors of East Anglia, huge numbers of sheep were kept for wool. Flemish and Italian merchants were familiar figures in the wool markets of the day, ready to buy wool from lord or peasant alike, all for ready cash. The bales of wool were loaded onto pack-animals and taken to the English ports such as Boston, London, Sandwich, and Southampton, from where the precious cargo would be shipped to Antwerp and Genoa.In time, the larger landowners developed direct trading links with cloth manufacturers abroad, whereas by necessity, the peasants continued to deal with the traveling wool merchants. Obviously, by cutting out the middleman and dealing in larger quantities, the landowners got a much better deal! Perhaps this is why it is said that the wool trade started the middle-class / working-class divide in England.
From the Lake District and Pennines in the north, down through the Cotswolds to the rolling hills of the West Country, across to the southern Downs and manors of East Anglia, huge numbers of sheep were kept for wool. Flemish and Italian merchants were familiar figures in the wool markets of the day, ready to buy wool from lord or peasant alike, all for ready cash. The bales of wool were loaded onto pack-animals and taken to the English ports such as Boston, London, Sandwich, and Southampton, from where the precious cargo would be shipped to Antwerp and Genoa.In time, the larger landowners developed direct trading links with cloth manufacturers abroad, whereas by necessity, the peasants continued to deal with the traveling wool merchants. Obviously, by cutting out the middleman and dealing in larger quantities, the landowners got a much better deal! Perhaps this is why it is said that the wool trade started the middle-class / working-class divide in England.
Successive monarchs heavily taxed the wool trade. King Edward I was the first to impose taxes on the export of wool, hoping to fund his military endeavors. Realizing the importance of these taxes to his royal coffers, Edward III actually went to war with France, partly to help protect the wool trade with Flanders. The burghers from the rich Flemish cloth-towns had appealed to him for help against their French overlord. Although called the Hundred Year War, the conflict would actually last 116 years, from 1337 to 1453. During this period, the taxes that had been levied began to damage the wool trade, which ultimately resulted in more cloth being produced in England. Flemish weavers fleeing the horrors of war and French rule were encouraged to set up home in England, with many settling in Norfolk and Suffolk. Others moved to the West Country, the Cotswolds, the Yorkshire Dales, and Cumberland, where weaving began to flourish in the villages and towns. This led to the rise of new centers of cloth-making, which would become important centers of industry in the centuries that followed.
The Hundred Year War between England and France, which actually lasted 116 years from 1337 to 1453, had a significant impact on the wool trade as well. Flemish weavers, seeking refuge from the war and French rule, were encouraged to settle in England. Many of them found homes in Norfolk and Suffolk, while others moved to the West Country, the Cotswolds, the Yorkshire Dales, and Cumberland. This influx of skilled weavers helped to further establish weaving as a flourishing industry in villages and towns across the country. One of the best examples of a medieval wool town in England is Lavenham in Suffolk. During Tudor times, Lavenham was the fourteenth wealthiest town in England despite its small size, thanks to the success of the wool trade. Its fine timber-framed buildings and beautiful church are a testament to the wealth and influence of the wool merchants who made their fortunes in the town. The legacy of the wool trade can still be seen in the architectural heritage of many English towns and villages today.
By the fifteenth century, England was producing enough cloth for domestic use, and the surplus was sold abroad. Wool was a valuable commodity, and the government recognized its importance to the economy. In the late 1500s, a law was passed requiring all Englishmen, except nobles, to wear a woollen cap to church on Sundays. This was part of a plan to support the wool industry and ensure its continued success.Wool production was not limited to England, however. Landowners and farmers in Wales and Scotland also recognized the potential for profit in raising sheep. The Highlands of Scotland, in particular, saw significant changes during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as landowners forcibly removed tenants from their estates and converted the land from arable to sheep farming. This led to widespread hardship and forced many Highland Scots to flee to other countries, including the New World.
One of the cities at the forefront of the wool-making industrial revolution was Leeds. The industry began in the sixteenth century and continued into the nineteenth century, with Leeds becoming a major center for the production of woollen cloth. The construction of various transportation routes, like the Leeds-Liverpool canal and the railway system, connected Leeds with the coast, providing outlets for the exportation of finished products all over the world. The mechanized Leeds mills, some of the largest in the world, required increasing amounts of raw materials, and the expanding British Empire helped to feed this demand. Wool was shipped in from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, and this trade continued well into the twentieth century.However, the woolen mills in England ultimately fell silent as cheaper imports from the Far East flooded the market. This marked the end of an era for the wool trade in England and marked the beginning of a new chapter in the country’s economic history.
During the 19th century, woolen mills in the UK became increasingly mechanized and automated. New technologies, such as power looms and spinning frames, allowed the mills to produce textiles at a much faster rate and on a larger scale. The demand for woolen products also increased as the British Empire expanded, providing new markets for British-made goods. However, by the mid-20th century, the woolen mill industry in the UK had declined due to various factors, including competition from cheaper imports from abroad, changing fashion trends, and the rise of synthetic fibers. Many mills were forced to close, and others were converted for other uses.
But there are some woolen mills still operating in the UK today. While the industry has declined significantly from its peak in the 19th century, there are still a number of mills producing high-quality woolen fabrics and products. Some of the most famous mills include Abraham Moon & Sons in Yorkshire, Harris Tweed Hebrides in the Outer Hebrides, and Johnstons of Elgin in Scotland. These mills have a long history of producing high-quality woolen fabrics and have adapted to modern times by introducing new technologies and techniques to their production processes.
In Australia
Early history
About 70 native sheep, suitable only for mutton, survived the journey to Australia with the First Fleet, which arrived in late January 1788. A few months later, the flock had dwindled to just 28 ewes and one lamb.
In 1797, Governor King, Colonel Patterson, Captain Waterhouse and Kent purchased sheep in Cape Town from the widow of Colonel Gordon, commander of the Dutch garrison. When Waterhouse landed in Sydney, he sold his sheep to Captain John MacArthur, Samuel Marsden and Captain William Cox.[41] Although the early origin of the Australian Merino breed involved different stocks from Cape Colony, England, Saxony, France and America and although different Merino strains are bred today in Australia, the Australian Merino populations are genetically similar and distinct from all other Merino populations, indicating a common history after they arrived in Australia
John and Elizabeth Macarthur
By 1810, Australia had 33,818 sheep. John MacArthur (who had been sent back from Australia to England following a duel with Colonel Patterson) brought seven rams and one ewe from the first dispersal sale of King George III stud in 1804. The next year, MacArthur and the sheep returned to Australia, Macarthur to reunite with his wife Elizabeth, who had been developing their flock in his absence. Macarthur is considered the father of the Australian Merino industry; in the long term, however, his sheep had very little influence on the development of the Australian Merino. Macarthur pioneered the introduction of Saxon Merinos with importation from the Electoral flock in 1812. The first Australian wool boom occurred in 1813, when the Great Dividing Range was crossed. During the 1820s, interest in Merino sheep increased. MacArthur showed and sold 39 rams in October 1820, grossing £510/16/5. In 1823, at the first sheep show held in Australia, a gold medal was awarded to W. Riley (‘Raby’) for importing the most Saxons; W. Riley also imported cashmere goats into Australia.
Eliza and John Furlong
Two of Eliza Furlong’s (sometimes spelt Forlong or Forlonge) children had died from consumption, and she was determined to protect her surviving two sons by living in a warm climate and finding them outdoor occupations. Her husband John, a Scottish businessman, had noticed wool from the Electorate of Saxony sold for much higher prices than wools from New South Wales. The family decided on sheep farming in Australia for their new business. In 1826, Eliza walked over 1,500 miles (2,400 km) through villages in Saxony and Prussia, selecting fine Saxon Merino sheep. Her sons, Andrew and William, studied sheep breeding and wool classing. The selected 100 sheep were driven (herded) to Hamburg and shipped to Hull. Thence, Eliza and her two sons walked them to Scotland for shipment to Australia. In Scotland, the new Australia Company, which was established in Britain, bought the first shipment, so Eliza repeated the journey twice more. Each time, she gathered a flock for her sons. The sons were sent to New South Wales, but were persuaded to stop in Tasmania with the sheep, where Eliza and her husband joined them.The Age in 1908 described Eliza Furlong as someone who had ‘notably stimulated and largely helped to mould the prosperity of an entire state and her name deserved to live for all time in our history’ (reprinted Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser January 27, 1989).
John Murray
There were nearly 2 million sheep in Australia by 1830, and by 1836, Australia had won the wool trade war with Germany, mainly because of Germany’s preoccupation with fineness. German manufacturers commenced importing Australian wool in 1845. In 1841, at Mount Crawford in South Australia, Murray established a flock of Camden-blood ewes mated to Tasmanian rams. To broaden the wool and give the animals some size, it is thought some English Leicester blood was introduced. The resultant sheep were the foundation of many South Australian strong wool studs. His brother Alexander Borthwick Murray was also a highly successful breeder of Merino sheep
The Peppin brothers
The Peppin brothers took a different approach to producing a hardier, longer-stapled, broader wool sheep. After purchasing Wanganella Station in the Riverina, they selected 200 station-bred ewes that thrived under local conditions and purchased 100 South Australian ewes bred at Cannally that were sired by an imported Rambouillet ram. The Peppin brothers mainly used Saxon and Rambouillet rams, importing four Rambouillet rams in 1860. One of these, Emperor, cut an 11.4 lb (5.1 kg clean) wool clip. They ran some Lincoln ewes, but their introduction into the flock is undocumented. In 1865, George Merriman founded the fine wool Merino Ravensworth Stud, part of which is the Merryville Stud at Yass, New South Wales
Vermont merinos in Australia
In the 1880s, Vermont rams were imported into Australia from the U.S.; since many Australian stud men believed these sheep would improve wool cuts, their use spread rapidly. Unfortunately, the fleece weight was high, but the clean yield low, the greater grease content increased the risk of fly strike, they had lower uneven wool quality, and lower lambing percentages. Their introduction had a devastating effect on many famous fine-wool studs.In 1889, while Australian studs were being devastated by the imported Vermont rams, several U.S. Merino breeders formed the Rambouillet Association to prevent the destruction of the Rambouillet line in the U.S. Today, an estimated 50% of the sheep on the U.S. western ranges are of Rambouillet blood. The federation drought (1901–1903) reduced the number of Australian sheep from 72 to 53 million and ended the Vermont era. The Peppin and Murray blood strain became dominant in the pastoral and wheat zones of Australia.
Structure of a Merino wool fibre
Merino wool is fine and soft. Staples are commonly 65–100 mm (2.6–3.9 in) long. A Saxon Merino produces 3–6 kg (6.6–13.2 lb) of greasy wool a year, while a good quality Peppin Merino ram produces up to 18 kg (40 lb). Merino wool is generally less than 24 micron (μm) in diameter. Basic Merino types include: strong (broad) wool (23 – 24.5 μm), medium wool (21 – 22.9 μm), fine (18.6 – 20.9 μm), superfine (15 – 18.5 μm) and ultra-fine (11.5 – 15 μm).
– References –
Follow the Flock: How Sheep Shaped Human Civilization
Sally Coulthard (原名), サリー クルサード (著), 森 夏樹 (翻訳)
mystery cloth “COTTON”

Cotton grows from animals.

When you go to a museum and see a portrait you always wonder about this funny collar. I always agree with you about that. Why did these collars become so popular? And how did they become so bloated? Let’s take a trip through history with us..
Missing “Dhaka muslin”

The world's best cotton has disappeared

The muslin fabric featured in Marie-Antoinette’s portraits. The sheer, transparent fabric fascinated European aristocrats. And the lost world best beautiful fabric “Dhaka Muslin” from Mughal Empire (Now Bangladesh) , They can no longer be reproduced. The craftsmen who made the delicate fabric had their fingers chopped off by the British man.
a symbol of Rich

Ruff ...Why is it shaped like this?

When you go to a museum and see a portrait you always wonder about this funny collar. I always agree with you about that. Why did these collars become so popular? And how did they become so bloated? Let’s take a trip through history with us..