Not everything in the sheep industry is black and white. Introducing Tunis sheep -- a breed apart.
The first, and most striking thing you will notice about Tunis sheep is the beautiful red color set on an attractive sheep
with long pendulous ears and a calm disposition. These sheep are quickly becoming favorites with everyone who tries
this unique breed, from showmen to commercial farmers.
Within this medium-sized package is found a very productive sheep. Tunis are very feed efficient, requiring less feed than
larger breeds to produce marketable lambs at the same weights within similar time frames. The ewes are excellent mothers
who have a high rate of twinning, are heavy milkers, are productive for much of their long lives, and are easily handled with
very docile temperaments. The lambs are vigorous at birth and are warmed by a double coat of red fibers. An extended
breeding season can be expected - in fact some Tunis will breed out of season producing fall lambs. Tunis carcasses
yield a high percentage of meat thanks to the breed's fine but strong bone structure and length of hind-saddle.
And the breed excels on pasture. In fact, due to their desert ancestry, Tunis will survive where many other breeds would
starve and are very heat tolerant. The rams are also noted for their libido, being quite active when young and even
during hot weather.
Our modern Tunis sheep originated by combining Middle-Eastern fat-tailed sheep imported from Tunisia, on the Northern coast
of Africa, with sheep locally available in America around 1799. This makes them among the oldest breeds of livestock
developed in America. The first known imported pair, a gift from the Bey of Tunis, was placed with Judge Richard Peters of
Belmont, PA, who made rams available and gave away lambs to spread the breed. Throughout its long history in America
the breed has been associated with many prominent figures like George Washington Custis, Judge Richard Peters, James A. Guilliams,
Maynard R. Spigner, Colonel Washington Watts, and Charles Rountree. It is not insignificant that many of these men were
members of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture.
The Tunis offers some very unique potential for those using it in an out-crossing
program. The Tunis has the ability to stamp its feed efficiency onto its crossbred offspring; half Tunis lambs are noted
for great weight gains, great feed conversion rates, and fast finishing. In particular, the Tunis-Dorset cross produces
one of the best market lambs obtainable. Also, retained ewe lambs from this cross can be bred anytime of the year
and seem to excel in mothering traits above even pure Tunis or Dorset ewes (two of the best breeds for mothering characteristics).
Tunis are also noted for the
fine flavor of their meat. It is said that Tunis mutton tastes as good as lamb of other breeds. Many find Tunis
mutton superior. Tunis lamb has a long history of being sought after for its delicate and fine flavor. In fact,
in the early 1800s Tunis lambs were the most sought after in the hothouse lamb markets around Philadelphia. Another
bonus of Tunis cross lambs is that they inherit the improved flavor of meat that the Tunis is uniquely noted for.
Feed efficiency, long lives,
easy birthing, high rate of twinning, excellent mothering, heavy milking, docile temperament, high carcass yields, fine flavor,
extended season, heat tolerance, and vigor . . . . . . .
Tunis have a lot to offer!