History of the Karakul Sheep

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The Karakul sheep is believed to be one of the oldest breeds of domesticated sheep in the world. Originally from the steppes of Turkistan, this broad tailed sheep gradually spread to other regions of Central Asia. This breed is named after the village Qorako’l, which lies in present-day Uzbekistan.

On 24 September 1907, the first 12 sheep, 2 rams and 10 ewes, arrived on board a freight ship at Swakopmund, which at that time still had a harbour. These sheep were imported to Namibia by the German government. About 750 Karakuls were imported to Namibia from Asia at the beginning of the previous century. From there the breed also spread to the Northern Cape and surrounding areas. Indigenous sheep breeds like the Blackhead Persian and the Namaqua Afrikaner were especially suitable for the upgrading of the Karakul. The numbers of Karakul increased rapidly until it reached its peak of more than 5 million for Namibia and South Africa in 1979.

The local industry took a hit in the 1970s, with production dropping from 3.4 million pelts per year in 1970 to 56,600 in 1997. The pelt numbers slowly increased again after 1997 and the annual production now stands at approximately 140 000 pelts a year.

The grown sheep are medium-sized; their wool is a mixture of coarse and fine fibres, varying in colour from black to shades of tan and grey. Karakul sheep have a wide, fat tail that stores fat.

The head is long and narrow, slightly indented between the eyes and often

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