|Photographer: Todd Brisco|
Tunis sheep are one of the oldest sheep breeds. It is
believed that they roamed the hills of Tunis and parts of Algeria in North
Africa prior to the Christian era. American Tunis sheep evolved from a number
of importations of fat-tailed sheep from Africa and the Middle East that were
crossed with established European breeds to improve the breed's meat
The earliest documented importation occurred in 1799, a gift
to the U.S. from the ruler of Tunisia and entrusted to the care of Judge
Richard Peters of Pennsylvania. One of the largest advocates of the Tunis breed
was Thomas Jefferson, who owned a fairly large flock. The breed could have been
a major breed in this country if most of the southern flocks had not been
destroyed during the Civil War.
Tunis are a unique looking breed with an unusual color of
reddish tan hair covering their legs, faces and long pendulous ears and minor
fat deposits over the dock area. The Tunis is classified as a "rare"
breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.