Friday, February 04, 2011

Thomas Jefferson and sheep

Jefferson Display
Originally uploaded by Pesky Library
Thomas Jefferson was known for many things, both personal and political, but not so many people are aware of President Jefferson’s avid ovine interests. He actively pursued the acquisition and breeding of sheep that he hoped would both improve his crop fields when fallow, and satisfy a growing concern for improved wool and mutton. He collected sheep as gifts from all over the world and was particularly desirous of the Merino sheep. This highly coveted Spanish breed could only be acquired through various smuggling antics for many years. He started out with the “common country sheep” from the Virginia mountains, a breed most like the Southwest Churro. He also kept Tunis (hailing from Tunisia, North Africa), and Shetland (from the Shetland Islands of Scotland) sheep. Jefferson was instrumental in improving the quality of wool bred in the United States, and would keep a flock of sheep on the White House lawn, until one day an aggressive territorial ram actually killed a boy.

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