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Characteristics of the Painted Desert Sheep

Jahonna Lena Looper

Characteristics of the Painted Desert Sheep

Color

The characteristic that sets these sheep apart from other breeds is their colorful markings. They are often marked in a combination of colors and can be tri- or quad-colored. Some individuals have white markings on a dark body; others have dark spots on a white or roan body.  They may have spots within spots.  Patterns can be distinct with oval or splashed markings (much like the Tobino and Overo patterns of the paint horse) frosted, or marbled where the colors just blend together. Patterns may be highly marked while others have only minimal markings.  Sheep with Jacob influence may have blue eyes.

Horns

At this time, the Painted Desert Sheep is known primarily for the ram's ability to grow a trophy class set of horns.  They are in demand for stocking exotic hunting leases.  These sheep have been crossed with other breeds such as Merino, Rambouillet, Jacob, and Navajo Churro to improve the horn and reach trophy class quicker.  Rams will have different shaped horns according to the influence of other breeds.  Tight horn curls growing close to the head are indicative of Barbados blood and can cause problems if the horns are close enough that they grow into the face. True Barbados Sheep are a polled breed and cross-breeds often have poor horns.  Although there are sheep in the registry with polled ancestry, horns are preferred.  Mouflon influence is shown by large supracervical (sweeping out and curving behind the neck), heart-shaped horns, or homonymous (sweeping outward in a spiral) horns.  Horns should be well-balanced and symmetrical.  You will see some magnificent horns on these sheep and even beautifully matched sets of four horns (or more). Ewes don't have horns unless they are a result of a cross where the ewes are horned (Mouflon or Jacob, for instance).

Size

The size of these sheep varies due to the influence of other breeds.  There is no strict standard at this time.  Ewes may range in weight from 60 to 120 pounds and have heights from 21" to 25" at the shoulders.  Rams weigh from 75 to 200 pounds and may be 30" or more at the shoulders.

Adaptability

The Painted Desert Sheep has resistance to disease, heat, and cold.  The conscientious flock owner should still make sure that his sheep receive regular immunizations and dewormings, but management is made much easier with this hardy sheep.  A shelter that provides shade and protection from cold drafts and driving rain is usually sufficient.

Coat

The Painted Desert Sheep is not a "woolless" breed (a misnomer, really), but actually a double coated breed that casts its wool in spring.  They are adaptable to extremes in weather. In the fall, they begin growing their undercoat of wool which gets even thicker as the weather get colder.  The rams will grow a luxuriant mane (another feature that makes them a favorite of trophy hunters) often beginning at the shoulders with a thick bib at the front of the neck.  In the spring, the wool is shed in clumps along with some of the longer, outer guard hairs.  What remains is a short, slick coat of hair.  Most rams will completely shed their mane by summer while others will have a sparser version of one.  Because of their short hair during the summer, these sheep will rarely be bothered by the external parasites that plague wool breeds.  The tails of these sheep are not docked as there is no real need to.  There should be no wool remaining on the sheep for the summer months.  If so, then the sheep has obviously close wool breeding.  The only exception would be lambs that don't usually shed until the next year.

Temperament

The Painted Desert Sheep has a strong flocking instinct when disturbed, but when at peace will scatter about the pasture.  They can be very docile if handled from birth.  A four foot mesh fence is adequate enough to keep them in your pasture (make sure it's dog and varmint proof), but they are quite capable of clearing this height if crowded.  When working these sheep (for vaccinations, etc.), it is best to confine them in a stall where they will mill in a corner for easy catching.

Fertility

Due to the Barbados influence in some of these sheep, the Painted Desert Sheep will have two lambings a year with intervals ranging from 6 1/2 to 8 months (depending on  how you manage your flock). Although the ewes will come in heat while lactating, and the ram will tend them, they often don't get pregnant until the lambs are taken off.  Most breeders will wean lambs between 2 and 3 months of age to get another lambing that year.  These sheep, again due to Barbados blood, have been known to deliver up to five lambs in one birth! They also breed out of season (anytime of the year). Ewe lambs ideally should not be bred until one year of age, but they are commonly bred at seven months of age with no ill effects.  Ram lambs reach sexual maturity early and have been known to breed as early as 4 months of age.  For this reason, keeping juvenile rams in your flock will make determining paternity of your lambs impossible.

Mothering and Milking Ability

The Painted Desert ewe has a strong mothering instinct.  Even with multiple births, she seems to count heads if one should wander off and is not happy until they are all by her side.  They have excellent milking ability, even with triplets, but should be watched and given assistance if need be, especially if one lamb is stronger than its sibling and getting more than its share of milk.  Some of these ewes have udders to rival dairy goat breeds.

Grazing

These sheep seem to prefer lush tender growth of grasses but are also partial to some weeds and shrubs.  There are some things they just will not eat.  However, they are excellent for keeping lots mowed and fence lines clean and manicured-looking.

Carcass

Lambs are in growing demand for their lean carcasses that do not have the strong flavor or fat of domestic mutton.  The meat is used in a variety of ways. 

Conclusion

The Painted Desert Sheep are for you if:

1. *You want to raise meat for your freezer

2. *You don't want to bother with shearing

3. *You want a low maintenance lawnmower

4. *You want large lamb crops for market

5. *No tail docking

6. *No Shearing

7. *Disease & Parasite resistance

8. *No smelly Goat odor

9. *You want something different (Most Important)-

Not too many people are even aware that there are such creatures as "hair sheep". Most people have only heard of, or seen, wool sheep. True, most sheep are wool sheep, but there are distinct advantages to having a sheep that has hair, much like a German Shepherd dog, rather than woolly locks. The Painted Desert Sheep is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. A 2001 survey showed that hair sheep comprise only 3 percent of the U.S. sheep population, but this is rapidly changing. Hair sheep are the fastest growing segment of the American sheep industry.

 

If you would like more info on the Painted Desert sheep or what to get a few for yourself..Feel free to contact me at tejasbarbadoranch @ yahoo.com. Edit Text

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