Sheep are members of the family Bovidae in the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed, hoofed mammals. Sheep were possibly
the first animals to be domesticated about 11,000 years ago in southwestern Asia.
Hair sheep are not a cross between goats and sheep. They have the same number of chromosomes as wooled sheep. The primary
difference between hair sheep and wooled sheep is the ratio of hair to wool fibers. All sheep have both types of fibers. Hair
sheep have more hair fibers and wool sheep have more wool fibers. Wooled sheep need shearing. Hair sheep do not. Hair sheep
also do not need their tails docked. Most wool sheep have their tails docked for reasons of health and sanitation.
Though estimated to be only 3% of the U.S. sheep population, hair sheep are gaining rapidly in popularity in the U.S. and
other temperate climates because wool is not as profitable as it used to be and lamb meat is the primary source
of income in the majority of sheep operations. Hair sheep are also valued for their production efficiency and "easy-care"
Besides shedding their "fleeces," hair sheep have many outstanding
qualities including a high level of reproduction, natural resistance to internal parasites and other pests, and greater tolerance
for heat and humidity. There are several different breeds of hair sheep.
Adapted from Sheep 101 and http://www.sheepandgoat.com/
Katahdin hair sheep provide a practical
option to producers who are primarily interested in raising a meat animal, with great lamb vigor, mothering ability and do
not want to shear. The Katahdin lambs produce a high quality, well-muscled carcass that is naturally lean and consistently
offers a very mild flavor.
The development of the breed began in
the late 1950's with the importation of a small number of haired sheep from the Caribbean by Michael Piel of Maine. The
Piel Farm had several thousand sheep at the time and Piel felt that "progress in selection for traits important to the
production of meat would be greatly enhanced by the elimination of wool as a major factor for selection." His goal was
to combine the hair coat, prolificacy, and hardiness of the Virgin Island sheep with the meat conformation and rate of growth
of wooled breeds. He began to experiment with crosses between the hair sheep and various British breeds, especially Suffolk.
After almost 20 years of crossing the resulting hybrids "in every conceivable combination" and selecting the individuals
with the desired combination of traits, Piel eventually collected a flock of ewes he called KATAHDINS, named after Mt.Katahdin
From KHSI website: http://www.katahdins.org/