Spanish Merino Sheep

About Spanish Merino SheepAbout Spanish Merino Sheep

A number of sheep breeding nations, including Phoenicia, Italy, and Spain, are believed to have played a part in the development of the Merino sheep. However, it is generally agreed upon that the Moors, who dominated Spain through the eighth to thirteenth centuries, were primarily responsible for selectively breeding the animals to such an extent that the wool they produced became superior to that of all other sheep.

Indeed, the word Merino may be of Moorish origin, possibly evolving from their word for a judge that settled disagreements about flocks between shepherds. By the eighteenth century, Merino wool was considered so luxurious and valuable only the sovereign of Spain was permitted to send Merino sheep out of the country, which he occasionally conveyed as gifts.

Merino fleece sits at the top of the grading charts for fineness; they are the standard against which all others are measured. Merino sheep are also noted for their hardiness and their herding instincts and have been used as parents of several other breeds, notably the Rambouillet of France.