If rare breeds of sheep are your reason for raising sheep then more power to you. We think it is a worthwhile endeavor and hope this list will serve you.
Rare Breeds List
The breeds listed here are included because they are not common breeds of sheep in North America. They may or may not be included on any official rare breeds list
Navajo-Churro (oldest breed in North America)
Soay (very ancient, feral sheep thought to be the common ancestor of domestic sheep)
Black Welsh Mountain
Gulf Coast Native
How Does a Breed Become a Rare Breed?
Breeds typically develope based on need and functionality in a specific region. As times change and the face of agriculture shifts the functionality shifts with it. So the need for the livestock species remains but the function changes. As the function changes breeds are altered and different breeds are often crossed with one another to obtain the qualities sought after. Over time the original breed becomes less and less common.
What's the Risk of Losing Our Rare breeds?
Keeping the lines of rare breeds of sheep alive and well is a potent facet for the future of livestock. As the agriculture industry swings in favour of industrial trends we risk losing the diversity in the genetics of domestic stock. In trying to keep up with the market demands of the industry, you are really playing a tail chasing game. Often by the time you have figured out what the market demands the market has moved on.
As long as we continue to follow the production minded trends and raise animals with only the market weight of the offspring in mind we eventually limit the gene pool to a detrimental effect. When the gene pool becomes too limited we end up with uniformity (peas in a pod) which may not be all that beneficial for domestic livestock in the long run.
This uniformity may result in animals with less and less resistance to disease and less and less hardiness to environmental factors like heat or cold. Eventually you get animals that may produce to the nines but need to live a very sheltered and environmentally controlled life in order to do. This is the very fate of numerous species of domestic livestock in today's industrial agriculture set ups.
Where do Rare Breeds of Sheep Fit In?
Those putting efforts toward maintaining lines of rare breed livestock are the saving grace of the livestock sector. Rare breeds are more important than the average rancher thinks.
Rare breeds often fit well with small scale farming or hobby producers as they have many selective characteristics that make them adaptable and hardy and they can often pay their own way through providing specialty products for specialty niches and through selling breeding ewes or rams to other producers.
For further information on rare breeds of sheep see: