Where are the Merino sheep from? This type of sheep has a doubtful origin . Some say they come from Africa while others claim they are descended from tax collectors in the United Kingdom.

While it is true that this type of sheep comes from Morocco, many authors point to the Ovisariesvinei as the first ancestor of the Merino sheep and it is a sheep that comes from the Caspian area that arrived in Spain via the Mediterranean.

Beginnings of its origin

It is proposed that the formation of the Merino sheep is constituted by those sheep, after a long migratory process and has great morphological and physiological changes, and have adapted to the conditions of the different territories. For that reason they settled in our peninsula.

During the 14th century, the Merina sheep was selected and, although the exact origin of the Merina breed is not known, it is assumed that they come from the crossbreeding of breeds native to the Iberian Peninsula with breeds from North Africa. This fact was of great scientific importance, although it has disappeared, because for the first time in Europe and in the world, the first genetic selection was made, which was the fineness of the wool. In this process, it was possible to reduce the diameter of the wool fiber to a quarter and increase the weight of the fleece in a hardy, hardy breed that can travel 30 km daily.

Another version says that the Merina breed has its origins on the origin in the Iberian Peninsula From where it has conquered the whole world and has become the most important breed in the world, not only for being the one with the largest world census at present, but also for the influence it has on the improvement and interventions in the creation of new breeds.

During the early 19th century

The kings of Castile and Leon took care and watched over the preservation and development of a breed that, by producing the best wool, formed an important part of the national wealth. The export of this species of sheep was also punishable by death. This ended in 1700 when the Crown began to give away some specimens to establish treaties of friendship or trade with nations such as Sweden, Saxony, Prussia, Hungary or France.

In 1786, the Bergerie Nationale de Rambouillet was founded by Louis XVI, the year in which the Spanish sheep flocks arrived. This is a mixture of different herds that during the 19th century became a unique breed: the Rambouillet Merino.

In the 19th century, thanks to the war of independence and, later, to economic liberalism, Charles IV incorporated a secret clause in the peace treaty signed with the French Republic, which established that for five years he could acquire one thousand sheep and one hundred rams per year, which caused an increase in the number of sheep and one hundred rams per year. The massive outflow of this species, which led to the loss of the monopoly that Spain had achieved in the production of Merino wool. With the arrival in Australia and other countries located in the southern hemisphere, this breed adapted to the more favorable climate of those places. This is the reason why in the following years these areas were the main focus of the breed’s development.

At the present time

By the end of the 1950s, the Merino breed, already in constant decline, had gone from about 25 million to 3.5 million, and was selected and exploited for its wool. However, the fall in the price of wool at the end of the 1950s and the increase in the price of lamb meat, has boosted the development plans that led to a change in the orientation of production towards meatThis is how this breed of sheep is managed and exploited.

In the new stage, the main objective was to produce lambs with good growth rates in order to provide high quality meat. A large majority of Merino sheep breeders found the breed to be optimal for the production of wool in high quantity and quality due to the selection made previously, but did not seem to want to comply with the new objectives and plans that the market and the administration had set.

The need to adapt to this new situation in such an abrupt manner, caused farmers, encouraged by the administration, to start crossing their Merino sheep with other sheep breeds, mainly with foreign breeds whose countries of origin had already advanced in the selection process and had sought as their main capacity the production of meat in their Merino sheep.

Because of this, this type of sheep breed was on the verge of disappearing due to the multitude of crossbreeding due to the scarcity or lack of knowledge in the genetics of these animals, and also due to the lack of public planning on the part of the administration or private planning on the part of the breeders. Crossbreeding became widespread, at first with sires of other native breeds and then with imported species such as Merino Precoz, Fleischschaf, Landschaf, Lle de France, Berrichon du Cher and Charmoise. Afterwards, crossbred animals began to be left for future breeders.

Starting in the 1970s, the Public Administration and after the creation of the administration of the National Association of Merino Cattle Breeders, the objective of conserving, developing and increasing the number of Merino sheep was promoted.

Historically, this breed has been exported for the production of fine wool, but nowadays, the main objective is meat production. Although in other areas, such as La Serena, it is exploited for milk production. For this reason, Merino sheep farms allow the diversification of the economy as they are capable of producing milk, meat and wool of high quality.