American Karakul Bloodlines
Small isolated flocks will keep the bloodlines going. ~Julia DeVlieg, Summer 2016
Photo collage of 7 American Karakul Bloodlines (click to enlarge)
A 3-page directory of Karakul Bloodlines Breeders ….This directory is currently being updated, March 23, 2023.
Updated with information on New Zealand Karakuls in America (page bottom).
The Alliance is making Karakul Bloodline Conservation a priority.
The reasons are best summed up with this statement “The bloodlines within a breed can be very important reservoirs of genetic variation, and managing these within the overall breed is important to long term breed survival…. it makes sense for a breed association to work to effectively conserve all of the component bloodlines of a breed.” ~ D. Phillip Sponenberg, Donald E. Bixby 2007. Managing Breeds for a Secure Future. (full ref at bottom)
Historic Flocks 1 through 12 are currently extinct or no longer distinct lines, with the exception of #5 Hindi. Flocks 13 through 25 (except #19 NZ import, #15 unknown) are an incomplete summary of Karakul bloodlines in the US that are currently thriving or important; additionally, one is functionally extinct, two have been dispersed but remain pure, and two new Conservators are planned for 2023.
Bold font indicates a link to the Bloodline story. The Bloodline numbers are assigned for the database.
Historic, 20th century, most no longer distinct
Foundation, 21st century, descendant from Historic lines
Multi-bloodline Composites (MBC) & Linebred, 21st century
Imported, NZ 2005
1 Hagerman-Osita Ranch, Santa Fe, NM
2 Dawley-Dotshome Farms, Fayetteville, NY
3 Hemingway-Karakul Fur Farm Enterprises, Upland, CA
4 Ponte-DoubleTree Place, San Andreas, CA
5 Hindi-Hindi & Sons, Duran, NM Historic & Foundation
6 Dancer-Dancer Karakuls, Grenada, CA
7 Ed Parks-Bay State Registry, Middleboro, MA
8 SKG (Stultz, Koch, Glotflety), NY-OH-PA [3 farms, 1 bloodline]
9 Alice Gatterdam, GAM Ranch, Napa, CA
10 Texas A&M Univ-Sonora Station, San Angelo, TX
11 Page Jacobs-Wooly Sheep, Coolidge, AZ
12 Myrtle Dow-Black Pines, Eaton, CO
13 Hagerman-OCK, Onion Creek, MC Buchholz, Dripping Spgs, TX
14 Dawley-PLF, Pine Lane Farm, Letty Klein, Kalamazoo, MI
16 Ponte-PSF, Petite Saline Farm, Dee Perera, Boonville, MO
17 Dancer-Neverov Karakuls, Peter Neverov, Tulelake, CA
18-1 Leslie Johnson-J Kambar Farm, Oklahoma City, OK
Linebred on TAMU whites since ~1996
Coming late 2023, New Conservators for the TAMU Bloodline!
18-2 TAMU-SCZ, Sedgwick Co Zoo, Wichita, KS
18-3 TAMU-Peculiar Patch, Antonio & Elizabeth Woodard, Sweetwater, TX
19 New Zealand-Willowbank Marco, Mike Willis, Christchurch, NZ
IMPORT – 2005
Multi-Bloodline Composites (MBC) & Linebred
20 Joe Billman-Six Winds Karakuls, Arco, ID
MBC – 2005 – 2020
Dispersed to three smaller flocks in California, Washington, and Idaho.
21 Julia DeVlieg-Anakus Karakuls, Rice, WA
MBC – 2007 – 2021
Dispersed to three smaller flocks in California, Washington, and Idaho.
22 Pete & Freda DerStepanian – DerStepanian Farm, Belleville, MI
MBC – 2007, Anakus & NZ lines
23 Leslie Johnson-J Kambar Farm, Oklahoma City, OK
MBC & Linebred for dark red since ~1983
MBC for 10 years, then linebred for non-fading dark red fleeces.
24 Sue Bundy-Red Gate Farm, Leesburg, VA
Linebred on PLF since ~1997
25 Turkana Farms-Peter Davies Memorial, Germantown, NY
Linebred on PLF since ~2001
The Minor Bloodlines are numbered 26 to past 30 at the present. I will continue to seek information and check historical references to capture their stories. The writing comes together, slowly.
After three decades of isolation, mid-1950s to mid-80s, the Historic Karakul bloodlines numbered 1 to 12 were located in the 1980s and 90s, under the guidance of Julia DeVlieg, after she founded the American Karakul Sheep Registry in 1985.
With the exception of #19, New Zealand import, the Foundation, MBC and Linebred bloodlines numbered 13 to 25 are isolated and line-bred flocks the Alliance found during the 2017 census. Four, possibly five are Foundation bloodlines —remnants of Historic line flocks.
For background on the formation of Bloodlines, please read our Traditional Flocks paper.
The bloodlines identified are associated with the Shepherd and Region-State. The shepherd is responsible for isolating the Karakul flock and selecting traits which are important for the particular farm or ranch.* Location is the environment that places additional selection pressure on the sheep. Karakuls raised in central Texas or the New Mexico desert will be different from those raised outside Syracuse, New York, and different still from Karakuls bred in the mountains of Idaho or Washington.
The 2005 New Zealand import information is included after the Definition of a Bloodline below, as well as how the Alliance is tracking NZ through American Karakul pedigrees.
Definition of a Bloodline
From our Traditional Flocks paper—
We are utilizing the Livestock Conservancy* definition for a Bloodline —“subpopulations that have been isolated from one another for several generations (usually four or more) with the consequence that they are somewhat genetically distinct”. From that, Alliance Advisors have chosen a minimum of five years of isolation or line-breeding generations to define a unique Karakul bloodline. Called Multi-Bloodline Composites or MBC, they fall into two types:
1) Isolated — Closed flocks having no outside genetic influences.
2) Line-bred — Open flocks bringing in a new ram every two to five years; yet genetics are similar enough to continue selective line-breeding on a color or specific Karakul type.
To be specific, five years of line-breeding generations means five years of lamb crops, used for breeding in the flock with the selection criteria to develop the bloodline—using male and female progeny, it is five generations of the breeders’ sheep. Since generations may not be consecutive, development of sheep bloodlines may take seven or more years of selection pressure.
Many Karakul shepherds looking back now do not realize they were developing a bloodline ‘back then’. Many bloodlines came together ‘by default’, rather than selective breeding.
While studying the different US Karakul bloodlines please keep in mind there are a variety of type choices—large and meaty, dainty and fine-boned, coarse to silky, single or double-coated, small to very large tails, straight, flipped, and in-between appendages. This seems to be pretty typical of worldwide regional Karakul types as well. Up until seventy years ago shepherds were breeding for birthcoat quality, not breed character.
A Karakul Breed Standard is a relatively new phenomenon (1951) ; which was forgotten, and resurfaced in 1985 after three more decades of isolation. Karakul sheep do not fit a narrow breed type; rather one a bit broader, so several different physical types of Karakul fit the Breed Standard developed since 1908. Karakuls also developed disease and parasite-resistance, long eyelashes, large broadtails, and other adaptations that enhanced their ability to thrive in tough environments. These adaptations have also made Karakul sheep enthusiastically marketable in the 21st century.
- A photo collage of 7 Bloodlines is posted at PAGE TOP, with plans to post more photos from the various Bloodlines as soon as possible.
- A directory of the NINE Karakul Bloodlines Breeders ….This directory is currently being updated, March 23, 2023.
- Here are some Recommendations for Managing Bloodlines
- 1. Conserving Historical and Foundation lines, and
- 2. Developing MBC and Linebred lines
New Zealand Karakul Bloodline in America
NEW ZEALAND Karakul genetics were imported in 2005, a dark brown ram named Willowbank Marco. The last semen was used in Artificial Insemination about 2015 in a flock in southern California. Young NZ offspring are producing there, and a few grandsons remain still siring lambs throughout the US; a couple breeders are line-breeding on NZ.
September 2020 while working with The Livestock Conservancy (TLC), I asked about the NZ bloodline and how it fits with American Karakuls. I got this response from Dr. Phil Sponenberg, TLC’s Technical Advisor. “TLC focuses on the conservation of unique and rare genetic resources. The American Karakul fits into the framework in a very specific and unusual spot. The Karakul is internationally a common breed, but the American Karakul has been separated from it genetically as well as by selection goals for [over] a century. In that regard, TLC can only consider as “American Karakuls” those sheep that are completely free of other influences, at least to the extent that can be easily documented. While Karakuls are indeed an interesting and important breed, those that are outside of this very narrow definition of American Karakul fall outside of TLC’s core mission and therefore cannot be the target of TLC’s programs.”
In our new Registry Policy, Alliance Advisors designed an easy way to track the NZ bloodline in our population. When NZ influence is 3% or less of a sheep’s ancestry, they will then be considered American Karakuls. Additionally, KSAR will internally track the 100% American Karakuls for TLC. Check out the Registry Policy. For photos of Willowbank Marco and more details on NZ please see our Fall 2020 Newsletter.
1. Sponenberg, D. Phillip and Donald E. Bixby 2007. Managing Breeds for a Secure Future: Strategies for Breeders and Breed Associations. Pittsboro, North Carolina: American Livestock Breeds Conservancy* P. 34, 35, 185 [*2013 named The Livestock Conservancy-TLC]
2. Hagerman, Lowry 1951. The Karakul Handbook-Selecting and Breeding Karakuls for Fur Improvement. Denver: Smith-Brooks 211 p.
Two important breeding articles below, with permission given to post by The Livestock Conservancy.
2016 Winter TLC News – Rare Breeds Inbreeding & Breed Survival, Sponenberg
2013 Autumn TLC News – Conservation of Landrace Breeds, Sponenberg
Deborah Hunter, Alliance Librarian & Historian
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Updated March 2023
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