the merino sheep It is a very important and popular breed of domestic sheep. It is originally from Spain, but today it has reached many other parts of the world, due to its high quality of wool and other products. Thus, If you want to know how, when and why the merino sheep has become so special and valuable to many, keep reading. Next, we tell you the whole story of the merino sheep and its wool.
Origin of the Merino Sheep
The merino sheep is one of the oldest and most resistant breeds of sheep in the world. This species originally comes from the plateaus of the North Africa from the Atlas Mountains, where they lived under extreme , often harsh, climatic conditions of the kind found only in mountains when all four seasons pass at the same time . Therefore, they had to withstand extreme temperature fluctuations from minus 20 degrees to plus 35 degrees. For this reason, they have a type of coat that adapts perfectly to these harsh conditions.
In the Middle Ages, sheep finally made their way to Spain, where their wool was sold as the valuable “Spanish wool.”
In the 18th century, the first merino sheep were exported to Australia, which has since become the world’s largest exporter of this prized product, and to other wool-producing countries such as New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
Until today, we can find Merino sheep all over the world, due to the quality of the products that come out of it. The best known is wool, but there are also other products such as milk, meat, leather, etc.
Characteristics of the merino sheep
Merino sheep are medium-sized animals with a very beautiful appearance.. The color that prevails in this type of sheep is white, especially on the face and legs. Although they have a considerable growth of wool on the face, it is rarely extensive enough to cause wool blindness. The fine wool fibers of the fleeces are beautifully crimped.
What most characterizes this breed is that they can have horns or not. The hornless version either has no horns, or has very small stumps, known as scurs. While the horned version has long, spiral horns, which grow close to the head.
Regarding the size itself, it is a medium animal, since the average body weight of mature rams is around 80-105 kg and that of mature ewes on average around 55-80 kg.
History of the merino sheep
Merino sheep are supposed to have been introduced for the first time in Spain by the Meriníes, a tribe of Berbers in Spain until the 12th century. But it is believed that they had actually been to the Iberian Peninsula even earlier. Most likely, the breed was used between the 13th and 14th centuries by breeders of Spanish origin when they formed a market system for their wool-spinning business. So, around that time, sheep were owned only by the church or the nobility.
It was not until the 18th century that merino sheep could be legally exported. Throughout the 18th century, this breed of Merino sheep was exported throughout Europe through the noble families. Then in 1778, later in Germany, the first real study of the breed for genetic improvement began.
The breed was finally introduced to the United States in the 19th century and with it, throughout the world, where people worked to perfect the breed to create the finest wool. Nowadays, breeding is continued through artificial insemination or embryo transfer.
Merino wool is one of the most popular textile materials in the world, because it is cheap and durable, which increases its attractiveness. Like all types of wool, the merino wool is also highly absorbent, waterproof and insulating. In addition, it prevents bad odours. For this reason, this type of wool is usually used above all in clothing for outdoor activities.
On the other hand, here are some of the main features:
- There are several types according to their texture: fine, long and soft .
- The hair strands are usually approximately 65–100 mm long. It is usually from less than 24 microns (µm) in diameter .
- The basic wool types of merino sheep are as follows: strong (broad) wool (23–24.5 µm), medium wool (19.6–22.9 µm), fine (18.6–19.5 µm), superfine (15–18.5 µm), and ultra fine (11.5–15 µm).
- Ultrafine wool is a type of wool that can be mixed with other fibers such as silk or cashmere .
In this article you have been able to learn a little more about the merino sheep and its history in the world. In addition to being able to know the different types of wool that exist. We hope that it has been useful to you and if you have found it interesting, do not hesitate to consult our website to find out more.