The Katahdin is a breed of domestic sheep developed in Maine, United States and named after Mount Katahdin – the highest peak in Maine. The breed was developed during in the second half of the 20th century by Michael Piel who, after reading an article in the February 1956 National Geographic, imported selected St.
Croix sheep chosen by Dr. Richard Marshall Bond, Director of the Virgin Islands branch of the U.S.D.A., and crossed them with various other breeds including the Suffolk, selecting lambs based on hair coat, meat-type conformation, high fertility, and flocking instinct.
The Katahdin sheep breed was the first in the United States to reach sheep industry standards of carcass quality. The average Katahdin ewe weight is 120 to 160 pounds and the ram’s weight is 180 to 250. Most Katahdin ewes will have a 200% lamb crop.
The Katahdin sheds its winter coat, and so does not have to be sheared. The Katahdin’s hair can come in any color as the emphasis of the breed is on production rather than appearance. When Katahdins are crossed with wool sheep, their offsping will usually have a mix of predominantly wool with some hair.
- Breed Size: Medium to large
- Weight: Rams weight between 82 and 114 kg, and mature ewes body weight vary from 55 to 72 kg
- Horns: No
- Climate Tolerance: Native climates
- Color: Many
- Country/Place of Origin: United States
Color and price
Three “African Hair Sheep,” as they were called then, were imported to Maine from St. Croix on November 21, 1957, All were less than a year of age, born triplets, unrelated for many generations, and woolless with woolless siblings. One female was tan in color, the male and another female were white. The cost was $10 plus $75 shipping for each lamb
The ram lamb, “King Tut,” was used for breeding a handful of ewes in December 1957, including Tunis, Southdown, Hampshire, Suffolk, and the “African” ewe lambs. -From this point on, crosses of many breed combinations (including Cheviots and other “Down” breeds), were made as Piel tried to determine what would create the type of ewe he was looking for. He was particularly selecting for hair coat, meat-type conformation, high fertility, and flocking instinct.
- Ticks, keds and flystrike are not a problem and to date, there has never been a Katahdin with scrapie.
- We find it’s seldom necessary to trim hooves. Twice a year my friend with Polypays shows up at work doubled over as he shuffles around in pain. Sure enough, he’s been trimming hooves.
- While I can’t speak for other hair sheep breeds, Katahdin sheep are often more “flighty” than many other breeds: Several producers of both hair and wool animals have found coyote losses are considerably lower with Katahdins. Apparently, Momma Kathadin doesn’t wait around to see what happens when Mr. Coyote shows up for dinner.
- The flocking instinct of hair animals generally isn’t as good as wool breeds. Our young Katahdins can be difficult to move. Rather than stay in a group, they will scatter in all directions like a covey of quail.
- Most hair sheep breeds will lamb out of season without resorting to hormone therapy.
- My friend also mentioned his Katahdin-Dorper lambs are much fatter when born than Polypays.
- Docking tails is unnecessary, although you still see some “old timers” that dock just because they always have.
The Katahdin sheep are medium to large animals, and they were the first in the United States to reach sheep industry standards of carcass quality. They naturally shed their winter coat, and so do not need to be sheared. Their hair can come in any color, as the emphasis of the breed is on production rather than look or appearance. Their offspring will usually have a mix of predominantly wool with hair, when these animals are crossed with wool sheep breeds.
Katahdin sheep images