STATUS IN THE WILD: Domesticated, although the breed is considered rare.
RANGE: Tunisia, North Africa, the United States, and Canada
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
In the late 1700’s, a small herd of North African sheep known as “fat-tailed,” “broad-tailed,” and “Barbary sheep” were brought to the United States by the Tunisian government as a gift to George Washington. The American breed of sheep, Tunis sheep, was developed over the next few years from that original small herd. About 60 years later, the American Civil War almost wiped out the breed. After the war, American farmers began to recognize the hardiness of the Tunis sheep, with their ability to thrive in the heat of the American South and the cold winters of the North.
Tunis adults’ average weight is between one hundred fifty and two hundred seventy-five pounds. Their head, legs, and long ears have cinnamon red or dark tan silky hair, while their bodies have cream-colored wool. Their eyes are pale blue with rectangular-shaped pupils. Males and females are typically hornless. Sheep are ruminant animals with a four-chambered stomach, and do not grow upper teeth in the front of the mouth.
Female sheep, called ewes, can produce eight to 10 pounds of wool fleece a year. Males, called rams, can produce up to 10 to 15 pounds of wool fleece a year. Larger males can produce more.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Tunis sheep ewes reach puberty between six and nine months of age. Rams typically reach puberty between four and six months of age. Gestation in females is 144 to 152 days. An ewe can give birth to one to three lambs, with the lambs weighing seven to 12 pounds at birth.
The original ancient North African breed roamed the desert grasslands; the modern American Tunis sheep are found on farms scattered around the county.
The Tunis sheep have adapted to arid desert grasslands as well as the humid pasturelands of the American South.
They thrive on grass, weeds, and brush.