Katahdin hair sheep are a unique breed of sheep that originated in the United States, they have many advantages that make them desirable.
Katahdin sheep are a breed of Hair Sheep that got their start in Maine, USA. The breed was created intentionally, with breeder Michael Piel importing 3 hair sheep from Africa in 1957 (one ram lamb, 2 ewe lambs).
The ram, named King Tut was put to breed with the two West African hair sheep ewes, as well as ewes more common in the area, Suffolk, Hampshire, Southdown, and Tunis. The goal of the breeding problem was to produce a hair sheep, with good meat quality, that had high fertility rates, good mothering instinct, and could be used to graze around power lines rather than treating the areas with chemicals.
By the 1970’s he had reached his goal, and named the breed Katahdin, after a mountain in the area. Two other breeds were also used to improve the Katahdin, these being the St.Croix (also a hair sheep) and the Wiltshire Horn sheep.
By 1985 a registry was established and Katahdins were promoted as a low maintenance sheep, that made good mothers, and were suitable for meat production.
Katahdin ram in back of two wool sheep ewes.
Advantages of the Katahdin Sheep
Like all hair sheep, Katahdin sheep do not require shearing, or tail docking.
Katahdin sheep do get thicker coats in the winter, but will shed in the summer, and as such are more tolerant of heat than the wool sheep.
Katahdin sheep are excellent mothers, and often have twins, or triplets, even quadruplets are not unheard of with this breed (but may require one lamb to be bottle fed).
Katahdin sheep are medium sized (ewes average 120-160 lbs, rams 180-200 lbs), making them easier to work with for the hobby farmer, or novelty sheep keeper.
Katahdins are noted (like many hair sheep breeds) for having a greater resistance to parasites.
A Katahdin ewe with newborn lambs, this is winter (January), her coat would be thinner in summer.
Other Characteristics of Katahdin Sheep
The most common color of Katahdin sheep is white, often with a brown patch behind the neck. They also come in creams, browns, reds, and black.
Horns are not common on Katahdin sheep, but some rams will have horns. Many breeders favor the polled sheep.
A Katahdin ram will often grow a long mane, which may shed somewhat in the summer.
Katahdin ewes tend to produce more milk than many of the other hair breeds, while not as much as some of the other wool sheep.
When bred to a wool sheep the lambs with often have a mix of hair and wool. They will typically shed sporadically throughout the summer. As hair sheep are often smaller than wool sheep, it may be preferable to have the wool ewes, and a Katadhin ram, thus producing lower maintenance lambs, for market, or to use as ewes in later years. These wool/hair cross sheep tend to be better for the colder climates than the straight hair sheep.
A Katahdin Ram with horns.