Willowbank title

Karakul Sheep

Karakul Sheep

WHAT ARE THEY?

Karakul ram

Karakuls are a breed originating in the region historically known as Turkestan. They are of the 'fat-tail' variety of sheep, but the fat is confined to the upper third of the tail, and so they are more correctly known as 'broad-tail'. Karakuls are reputed to be the oldest domesticated sheep in the world, going back in time some 2000 years.

Their most distinctive feature is the coat of the newly-born lamb, which resembles high quality fur. This product is commonly known as astrakhan, and in the past was jealously guarded and protected as a form of 'black gold'. It is still an extremely valuable and sought-after fashion item.

WHERE ARE THEY FOUND?

Karakuls are commonly found in the Middle East, with large numbers in Africa as well as Russia. There are small flocks in Germany and Austria. The United States also has a small population, as have countries such as Brazil. There is one known flock in Australia that is tightly controlled.

Karakul ram

KARAKULS IN NEW ZEALAND

In 1989 embryos from Zimbabwe were imported into New Zealand. After years of quarantine the sheep were released to the Government's agency, Landcorp. In 2000, the Government sold the remnant flock of about 75 animals. The Willowbank flock is derived from the original imports, with the addition of imported semen and an extensive embryo transplant programme.

WHY HAVE THEM?

Karakul ewe

Karakuls –

Enquiries to mike@willowbank.co.nz

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