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The Merino
Merino
is an economically influential breed of sheep prized for its wool. The breed originated in Southwestern Iberia (Extremadura, Spain), but the modern Merino
Merino
was domesticated in New Zealand
New Zealand
and Australia. Today, Merinos are still regarded as having some of the finest and softest wool of any sheep. Poll Merinos have no horns (or very small stubs, known as scurs), and horned Merino
Merino
rams have long, spiral horns which grow close to the head.[1]

Contents

1 Etymology 2 Characteristics 3 Wool
Wool
qualities 4 History 5 United States Merinos 6 Australian Merinos

6.1 Early history 6.2 John and Elizabeth Macarthur 6.3 Eliza and John Furlong 6.4 John Murray 6.5 The Peppin brothers 6.6 Vermont
Vermont
sheep 6.7 Current situation

6.7.1 High price records

7 Events 8 Animal welfare
Animal welfare
developments 9 See also 10 References 11 Further reading 12 External links

Etymology[edit] Two suggested origins for the Spanish word merino are:[2]

It may be an adaptation to the sheep of the name of a Leonese official inspector (merino) over a merindad, who may have also inspected sheep pastures. This word is from the medieval Latin maiorinus, a steward or head official of a village, from maior, meaning "greater". It also may be from the name of an Imazighen tribe, the Marini (or in Castilian, Benimerines), who intervened in the Iberian peninsula during the 12th and 13th centuries.

Characteristics[edit]

Australian Merino
Merino
wool fibre (top) compared to a human hair (bottom), imaged using scanning electron microscopy

Merino
Merino
ewe judging

The Merino
Merino
is an excellent forager and very adaptable. It is bred predominantly for its wool,[3] and its carcass size is generally smaller than that of sheep bred for meat. South African Meat Merino (SAMM), American Rambouillet
Rambouillet
and German Merinofleischschaf[4] have been bred to balance wool production and carcass quality. Merino
Merino
have been domesticated and bred in ways that would not allow them to survive well without regular shearing by their owners. They must be shorn at least once a year because their wool does not stop growing. If this is neglected, the overabundance of wool can cause heat stress, mobility issues, and even blindness.[5] Wool
Wool
qualities[edit] Merino
Merino
wool is fine and soft. Staples are commonly 65–100 mm (2.6–3.9 in) long. A Saxon Merino
Merino
produces 3–6 kg (6.6–13.2 lb) of greasy wool a year, while a good quality Peppin Merino
Peppin Merino
ram produces up to 18 kg (40 lb). Merino
Merino
wool is generally less than 24 micron (µm) in diameter. Basic Merino
Merino
types include: 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).[6] Ultra fine wool is suitable for blending with other fibers such as silk and cashmere. New Zealand
New Zealand
produces lightweight knits made from Merino
Merino
wool and possum fur.[7] The term merino is widely used in the textile industries, but it cannot be taken to mean the fabric in question is actually 100% merino wool from a Merino
Merino
strain bred specifically for its wool. The wool of any Merino
Merino
sheep, whether reared in Spain or elsewhere, is known as "merino wool". However, not all merino sheep produce wool suitable for clothing, and especially for clothing worn next to the skin. This depends on the particular strain of the breed. Merino
Merino
sheep bred for meat do not produce a fleece with a fine enough staple for this purpose. History[edit]

One of the earliest depictions of a Merino. "El Buen Pastor" (The Good Shepherd) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, ca. 1650

The Phoenicians
Phoenicians
introduced sheep from Asia Minor
Asia Minor
into North Africa
North Africa
and the foundation flocks of the merino in Spain might have been introduced as late as the 12th century by the Marinids, a tribe of Berbers.[citation needed] although there were reports of the breed in the Iberian peninsula
Iberian peninsula
before the arrival of the Marinids; perhaps these came from the Merinos or tax collectors of the Kingdom of León, who charged the tenth in wool, beef jerky and cheese.[citation needed] In the 13th and 14th centuries, Spanish breeders introduced English breeds which they bred with local breeds to develop the merino; this influence was openly documented by Spanish writers at the time.[8] Spain became noted for its fine wool (spinning count between 60s and 64s) and built up a fine wool monopoly between the 12th and 16th centuries, with wool commerce to Flanders
Flanders
and England
England
being a source of income for Castile in the Late Middle Ages. Most of the flocks were owned by nobility or the church; the sheep grazed the Spanish southern plains in winter and the northern highlands in summer. The Mesta
Mesta
was an organisation of privileged sheep owners who developed the breed and controlled the migrations along cañadas reales suitable for grazing. The three Merino
Merino
strains that founded the world's Merino
Merino
flocks are the Royal Escurial flocks, the Negretti and the Paula. Among Merino bloodlines stemming from Vermont
Vermont
in the USA, three historical studs were highly important: Infantado, Montarcos and Aguires.

Champion Merino
Merino
ram, 1905 Sydney Sheep
Sheep
Show.

Before the 18th century, the export of Merinos from Spain was a crime punishable by death. In the 18th century, small exportation of Merinos from Spain and local sheep were used as the foundation of Merino flocks in other countries. In 1723, some were exported to Sweden, but the first major consignment of Escurials was sent by Charles III of Spain to his cousin, Prince Xavier the Elector of Saxony, in 1765. Further exportation of Escurials to Saxony
Saxony
occurred in 1774, to Hungary in 1775 and to Prussia in 1786. Later in 1786, Louis XVI of France received 366 sheep selected from 10 different cañadas; these founded the stud at the Royal Farm at Rambouillet. The Rambouillet stud enjoyed some undisclosed genetic development with some English long-wool genes contributing to the size and wool-type of the French sheep.[9] Through one ram in particular named Emperor – imported to Australia in 1860 by the Peppin brothers of Wanganella, New South Wales – the Rambouillet
Rambouillet
stud had an enormous influence on the development of the Australian Merino. Sir Joseph Banks
Sir Joseph Banks
procured two rams and four ewes in 1787 by way of Portugal, and in 1792 purchased 40 Negrettis for King George III to found the royal flock at Kew. In 1808, 2000 Paulas were imported.

A stud Merino
Merino
ram that has been branded on his horn

The King of Spain also gave some Escurials to the Dutch government in 1790; these thrived in the Dutch Cape Colony
Dutch Cape Colony
(South Africa). In 1788, John MacArthur, from the Clan Arthur
Clan Arthur
(or MacArthur Clan) introduced Merinos to Australia from South Africa. From 1765, the Germans in Saxony
Saxony
crossed the Spanish Merino
Merino
with the Saxon sheep[10] to develop a dense, fine type of Merino
Merino
(spinning count between 70s and 80s) adapted to its new environment. From 1778, the Saxon breeding center was operated in the Vorwerk Rennersdorf. It was administered from 1796 by Johann Gottfried Nake, who developed scientific crossing methods to further improve the Saxon Merino. By 1802, the region had four million Saxon Merino
Merino
sheep, and was becoming the centre for stud Merino
Merino
breeding, and German wool was considered to be the finest in the world. In 1802, Colonel David Humphreys, United States Ambassador to Spain, introduced the Vermont
Vermont
strain into North America with an importation of 21 rams and 70 ewes from Portugal and a further importation of 100 Infantado Merinos in 1808. The British embargo on wool and wool clothing exports to the U.S. before the 1812 British/U.S. war led to a " Merino
Merino
Craze", with William Jarvis of the Diplomatic Corps importing at least 3,500[11] sheep between 1809 and 1811 through Portugal. The Napoleonic wars
Napoleonic wars
(1793–1813) almost destroyed the Spanish Merino industry. The old cabañas were dispersed or slaughtered. From 1810 onwards, the Merino
Merino
scene shifted to Germany, the United States and Australia. Saxony
Saxony
lifted the export ban on living Merinos after the Napoleonic wars. Highly decorated Saxon sheep breeder Nake from Rennersdorf had established a private sheep farm in Kleindrebnitz in 1811, but ironically after the success of his sheep export to Australia and Russia, failed with his own undertaking. United States Merinos[edit] Merino
Merino
sheep were introduced to Vermont
Vermont
in 1802. This ultimately resulted in a boom-bust cycle for wool, which reached a price of 57 cents/pound in 1835. By 1837, 1,000,000 sheep were in the state. The price of wool dropped to 25 cents/pound in the late 1840s. The state could not withstand more efficient competition from the states, and sheep-raising in Vermont
Vermont
collapsed.[12] Australian Merinos[edit] Early history[edit] About 70 native sheep, suitable only for mutton, survived the journey to Australia with the First Fleet, which arrived in late January 1788. A few months later, the flock had dwindled to just 28 ewes and one lamb.[13] In 1797, Governor King, Colonel Patterson, Captain Waterhouse and Kent purchased sheep in Cape Town from the widow of Colonel Gordon, commander of the Dutch garrison. When Waterhouse landed in Sydney, he sold his sheep to Captain John MacArthur, Samuel Marsden
Samuel Marsden
and Captain William Cox.[14] John and Elizabeth Macarthur[edit] By 1810, Australia had 33,818 sheep.[15] John MacArthur (who had been sent back from Australia to England
England
following a duel with Colonel Patterson) brought seven rams and one ewe from the first dispersal sale of King George III stud in 1804. The next year, MacArthur and the sheep returned to Australia, Macarthur to reunite with his wife Elizabeth, who had been developing their flock in his absence. Macarthur is considered the father of the Australian Merino
Merino
industry; in the long term, however, his sheep had very little influence on the development of the Australian Merino. Macarthur pioneered the introduction of Saxon Merinos with importation from the Electoral flock in 1812. The first Australian wool boom occurred in 1813, when the Great Dividing Range
Great Dividing Range
was crossed. During the 1820s, interest in Merino
Merino
sheep increased. MacArthur showed and sold 39 rams in October 1820, grossing £510/16/5.[16] In 1823, at the first sheep show held in Australia, a gold medal was awarded to W. Riley ('Raby') for importing the most Saxons; W. Riley also imported cashmere goats into Australia.

Imported Vermont-type sheep, Australia

Eliza and John Furlong[edit] Two of Eliza Furlong's (sometimes spelt Forlong or Forlonge) children had died from consumption, and she was determined to protect her surviving two sons by living in a warm climate and finding them outdoor occupations. Her husband John, a Scottish businessman, had noticed wool from the Electorate of Saxony
Saxony
sold for much higher prices than wools from NSW. The family decided on sheep farming in Australia for their new business. In 1826, Eliza walked over 1,500 miles (2,400 km) through villages in Saxony
Saxony
and Prussia, selecting fine Saxon Merino
Merino
sheep. Her sons, Andrew and William, studied sheep breeding and wool classing. The selected 100 sheep were driven (herded) to Hamburg and shipped to Hull. Thence, Eliza and her two sons walked them to Scotland for shipment to Australia. In Scotland, the new Australia Company, which was established in Britain, bought the first shipment, so Eliza repeated the journey twice more. Each time, she gathered a flock for her sons. The sons were sent to NSW, but were persuaded to stop in Tasmania
Tasmania
with the sheep, where Eliza and her husband joined them.[17] The Melbourne Age in 1908 described Eliza Furlong as someone who had 'notably stimulated and largely helped to mould the prosperity of an entire state and her name deserved to live for all time in our history' (reprinted Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser January 27, 1989).[18] John Murray[edit] Main article: John Murray (sheep breeder) There were nearly 2 million sheep in Australia by 1830, and by 1836, Australia had won the wool trade war with Germany, mainly because of Germany's preoccupation with fineness. German manufacturers commenced importing Australian wool in 1845.[19] In 1841, at Mount Crawford in South Australia, Murray established a flock of Camden-blood ewes mated to Tasmanian rams. To broaden the wool and give the animals some size, it is thought some English Leicester
English Leicester
blood was introduced. The resultant sheep were the foundation of many South Australian strong wool studs. His brother Alexander Borthwick Murray
Alexander Borthwick Murray
was also a highly successful breeder of Merino
Merino
sheep.[20] The Peppin brothers[edit] See also: Peppin Merino The Peppin brothers took a different approach to producing a hardier, longer-stapled, broader wool sheep. After purchasing Wanganella Station in the Riverina, they selected 200 station-bred ewes that thrived under local conditions and purchased 100 South Australian ewes bred at Cannally that were sired by an imported Rambouillet
Rambouillet
ram. The Peppin brothers mainly used Saxon and Rambouillet
Rambouillet
rams, importing four Rambouillet
Rambouillet
rams in 1860.[21] One of these, Emperor, cut an 11.4 lb (5.1 kg clean) wool clip. They ran some Lincoln ewes, but their introduction into the flock is undocumented. In 1865, George Merriman founded the fine wool Merino
Merino
Ravensworth Stud, part of which is the Merryville Stud at Yass, New South Wales.[13] Vermont
Vermont
sheep[edit] In the 1880s, Vermont
Vermont
rams were imported into Australia from the U.S.; since many Australian stud men believed these sheep would improve wool cuts, their use spread rapidly. Unfortunately, the fleece weight was high, but the clean yield low, the greater grease content increased the risk of fly strike, they had lower uneven wool quality, and lower lambing percentages. Their introduction had a devastating effect on many famous fine-wool studs.

Superfine wool Merino
Merino
ewes and lambs, Walcha, NSW

In 1889, while Australian studs were being devastated by the imported Vermont
Vermont
rams, several U.S. Merino
Merino
breeders formed the Rambouillet Association to prevent the destruction of the Rambouillet
Rambouillet
line in the U.S. Today, an estimated 50% of the sheep on the U.S. western ranges are of Rambouillet
Rambouillet
blood.[11] The federation drought (1901–1903) reduced the number of Australian sheep from 72 to 53 million and ended the Vermont
Vermont
era. The Peppin and Murray blood strain became dominant in the pastoral and wheat zones of Australia. Current situation[edit] In Australia today, a few Saxon and other fine-wool, German bloodline, Merino
Merino
studs exist in the high rainfall areas.[22] In the pastoral and agriculture country, Peppins and Collinsville (21 to 24 micron) are popular. In the drier areas, one finds the Collinsville (21 to 24 micron) strains. The development of the Merino
Merino
is entering a new phase: objective fleece measurement and BLUP is now being used to identify exceptional animals. Artificial insemination
Artificial insemination
and embryo transfer are being used to accelerate the spread of their genes. The result is a wide outcrossing between all major strains.[citation needed] High price records[edit] The world record price for a ram was A$450,000 for JC&S Lustre 53, which sold at the 1988 Merino
Merino
ram sale at Adelaide, South Australia.[23] In 2008, an Australian Merino
Merino
ewe was sold for A$14,000 at the Sheep
Sheep
Show and auction held at Dubbo, New South Wales.[24] Events[edit]

New England
England
Tablelands superfine Merino
Merino
in snow

The New England
England
Merino
Merino
Field Days, which display local studs, wool, and sheep, are held during January in even numbered years in and around the Walcha, New South Wales
Walcha, New South Wales
district.[25] The Annual Wool Fashion Awards, which showcase the use of Merino
Merino
wool by fashion designers, are hosted by the city of Armidale, New South Wales
New South Wales
in March each year.[26] Animal welfare
Animal welfare
developments[edit] In Australia, mulesing of Merino
Merino
sheep is a common practice to reduce the incidence of flystrike. It has been attacked by animal rights and animal welfare activists, with PETA
PETA
running a campaign against the practice in 2004. The PETA
PETA
campaign targeted U.S. consumers by using graphic billboards in New York City. PETA
PETA
threatened U.S. manufacturers with television advertisements showing their companies' support of mulesing. Fashion retailers including Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Gap Inc
Gap Inc
and Nordstrom
Nordstrom
and George (UK) stopped stocking Australian Merino
Merino
wool products.[27] The Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to the New Zealand
New Zealand
Ministry of Agriculture Code of recommendations and minimum standards for the welfare of Sheep, considers mulesing a "special technique" which is performed on some Merino
Merino
sheep at a small number of farms in New Zealand.[28] In 2008, mulesing once again became a topical issue in Sweden, with a documentary on mulesing shown on Swedish television.[29] This was followed by allegations of bribery and intimidation by Australian government and wool industry officials;[30] the allegations were disputed by the wool industry.[31] Several European clothing retailers, including H&M, stopped stocking products made with Merino
Merino
wool from Australia.[32] New strains of Merinos that do not require mulesing are being promoted in South Australia.[33] 'Thin-skinned' sheep from western Victoria are also being promoted as a solution.

Medium wool Merino
Merino
being shorn, Lismore, Victoria

See also[edit]

Arkhar-Merino, a crossbreed with wild Urials Booroola Merino, prolific Merino
Merino
strain Delaine Merino Peppin Merino, dominant Australian Merino
Merino
strain Poll Merino Rambouillet
Rambouillet
(sheep)

References[edit]

^ " Merino
Merino
wool". Oviedo, Florida: NuMei. Retrieved 27 November 2015.  ^ Corominas, Joan; Pascual, José A., eds. (1989). "Merino". Diccionario Crítico Etimológico Castellano e Hispánico. IV. Madrid: Gredos. ISBN 84-249-0066-9.  ^ The Macquarie Dictionary. North Ryde: Macquarie Library. 1991.  ^ "Breeds of Livestock - German Mutton
Mutton
Merino
Merino
Sheep". Ansi.okstate.edu. 1998-12-10. Archived from the original on 2012-09-14. Retrieved 2012-08-20.  ^ "Will a Sheep's Wool
Wool
Grow Forever?", Modern Farmer  ^ Australian Wool
Wool
Classing, Australian Wool
Wool
Corporation, 1990, p. 26 ^ Possumly fashion Archived 2008-07-24 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 14 October 2008 ^ "Wool". The New American Cyclopaedia. 16. D. Appleton and Company. 1858. p. 538.  access-date= requires url= (help) ^ Paterson, Mark (1990). National Merino
Merino
Review. West Perth, Australia: Farmgate Press. pp. 12–17in 18600. ISSN 1033-5811.  ^ "Agriculture". Icenographic Encyclopedia of Science. 4. D. Appleton and Company. 1860. p. 731.  access-date= requires url= (help) ^ a b Ross, C.V. (1989). Sheep
Sheep
production and Management. Engleworrd Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0-13-808510-2.  ^ " Vermont
Vermont
Historical Society - William Jarvis's Merino
Merino
Sheep". Vermonthistory.org. Retrieved 2012-08-20.  ^ a b McCosker, Malcolm, Heritage Merino, Owen Edwards Publications, West End, 1988 ISBN 0-9588612-3-4 ^ Lewis, Wendy, Simon Balderstone and John Bowan (2006). Events That Shaped Australia. New Holland. ISBN 978-1-74110-492-9. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) ^ The Edinburgh Gazetteer, volume 1, Archibald Constable and Co.: Edinburgh, 1822, p.570 ^ The Australian Merino, Charles Massey, Viking O'Neil, South Yarra, 1990, p.62 ^ ADB: Forlong, Eliza (1784 - 1859) Retrieved 2009-11-28 ^ Mary S. Ramsay, 'Forlong, Eliza (1784 - 1859)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, Melbourne University Press, 2005, pp 130-131. ^ Taylor, Peter, Pastoral Properties of Australia, George Allen & Unwin, Sydney, London, Boston,1984 ^ "S.A. Merino
Merino
Rams in Queensland". The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889). Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia. 19 June 1861. p. 2. Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ J. Ann Hone, 'Peppin, George Hall (1800 - 1872)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, Melbourne University Press, 1974, pp 430-431. ^ The Australian Merino, Charles Massey, Viking O'Neil, South Yarra, 1990, p. 405 ^ Stock and Land Retrieved on 2008-9-8 ^ The Land, Rural Press, North Richmond, NSW, 4 September 2008 ^ New England
England
Merino
Merino
Field Days Retrieved 2010-1-9 ^ The Australian Wool
Wool
Fashion Awards Retrieved 2010-1-9 ^ "Abercrombie & Fitch Pledges Not to Use Australian Merino
Merino
Wool Until Mulesing and Live Exports End". PETA.org. Retrieved 2012-08-20.  ^ Code of recommendations and minimum standards for the welfare of Sheep
Sheep
Archived June 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. ^ "Swedish consumers 'concerned' by mulesing". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-08.  ^ "Bribe claim rocks wool trade body". The Age. 8 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-08.  ^ "ABC misreports Swedish TV mulesing program". The Australian Wool and Sheep
Sheep
Industry Taskforce. 12 March 2008. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-14.  ^ "H&M Stops Selling Australian Wool
Wool
Ethisphere™ Institute". Ethisphere.com. 2008-02-19. Archived from the original on 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2012-08-20.  ^ "Scientists search for bare-bum sheep gene". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 21 March 2005. Retrieved 2007-11-25. 

Further reading[edit]

Cottle, D.J. (1991). Australian Sheep
Sheep
and Wool
Wool
Handbook. Melbourne, Australia: Inkata Press. pp. 20–23. ISBN 0-909605-60-2. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Merino.

Wikisource
Wikisource
has the text of the 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia
Collier's Encyclopedia
article Merino.

Oklahoma State University - Merino
Merino
reference page The American Delaine & Merino
Merino
Record Association The American Rambouillet
Rambouillet
Sheep
Sheep
Breeders Association The Australian Association of Stud Merino
Merino
Breeders New Zealand
New Zealand
Me

.