1992 - Volume #16, Issue #4, Page #18[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
New Breed Of SheepVirginia sheep farmer Kathy Sterling and her husband have spent the last 15 years developing what they think is a fantastic new breed of sheep '- "a hornless, multi-colored sheep with two different staple lengths of fleece."
The Sterlings, who operate "Black Sheep Farm" near Berryville, Va., say their Harlequin breed is a small, meaty sheep that finishes out at about 100 lbs.
"We got the idea for a new breed when we started noticing lambs with different grey or black color patterns," says Kathy. "Frequently, the lambs had a lot of white markings on their tail, legs, head, throat, and stomach. We thought we could take those characteristics and combine them with other breeds to make a new breed with unique color patterns and fleece characteristics. Our new Harlequin breed is totally different in color and general appearance from any other animal in the world," says Kathy, who notes that the color and pattern of the sheep resembles the black and white spotted "Harlequin" coloring found on some Great Dane dogs.
The Sterlings started with purebred Southdown rams and also used Lincoln, Corriedale, Border Leicester, Tunis, Dorset, Romney, and Karakul rams. The ewes were mostly crossbreds, selected for conformation, grey or black coloring, good fleece characteristics, and mothering ability. About six years ago, the first true Harlequins were born - lambs with vivid patterns of black and white, brown and white, or gray and white.
"The color and pattern of the markings are unpredictable. It definitely makes it exciting to go out to the barn each day - you never know what the lambs will look like," says Kathy. "One lamb was born with a perfect "IH" on its side, which pleased my husband who's a die-hard International Harvester fan.
"We now have about 60 sheep. Over half of them are all black, brown, or gray, about a fourth are Harlequins, and the rest are all white. Most of the ewes have twins, with a few triplets each year and some singles, usually from yearling ewes. We keep all of the spotted ewe lambs and sell all but one or two of the Harlequin rams. Ram lambs sell for $200 to $300. A Harlequin ram lamb bred to solid colored ewes will probably produce about 25% spotted lambs. The rest of the lambs will have white socks, head, or tails. Some of the lambs have blue or partial-blue eyes."
Sterling says many of the Harlequins have two different staple lengths of fleece, with darker fleece up to 3/4 in. shorter than white fleece. "We sell the fleece to hand spinners who like it for its quality and color," says Kathy.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Black Sheep Farm, Box 91, Berryville, Va. 22611 (ph 703 955-3229).
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