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 & outline summary is available for printing.
This page updated January 2021 with information on New Zealand Karakuls in America.
Below is a brief summary of Karakul bloodlines in the United States that are currently thriving, important, relatively new, or recently discovered.
These are isolated and line-bred flocks the Alliance found during the 2017 census — Multi-Bloodline Composites, and remnants of Historic-Foundation Bloodlines.
The complete list of Karakul bloodlines, extinct or absorbed into current lines, is of course much longer. Please expect additional Bloodlines information to be updated periodically as historical references are checked and the writing comes together.
For background on the formation of Bloodlines, please read our Traditional Flocks paper.
After three decades of isolation, mid-1950s to mid-80s, Karakul bloodlines were located in the 1980s and 90s, under the guidance of Julia DeVlieg, after she founded the American Karakul Sheep Registry.
The summary shows progression of the Historic-Foundation Bloodlines through the decades, and the currently known contemporary bloodlines located in 2017.
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 is included below the American bloodline summary, 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; for example–sire, son, grandson, great-grandson, g-g-grandson, although could be male or female progeny. 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 pelt 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 over the last 70 years. Karakuls also developed disease and parasite-resistance, long eyelashes, big fat tails, 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.
Plans are to post photos from the various Bloodlines as soon as possible.
A photo collage of 7 Bloodlines is posted at PAGE TOP.
Historic-Foundation & Multi-Bloodline Composites
Historic-Foundation: (20th century italics, 21st century blue)
1. Hagerman (North-central NM) 1911, found 1986;
Onion Creek (Central TX) isolated 2004
2. Dawley (Central NY) 1916, found 1997;
Pine Lane Farm (Southwest MI) line-bred 2014
3. Hindi (Central NM) 1920s?-1940s, found late 1980s, 1st generation, Brahaim Hindi, 2nd generation Jamil Hindi, isolated up to 2008
Gabby (Southeast NM) isolated 2008
4. Ponte (North-central CA) 1941, found 1984;
close to extinct, only 5 to 10 high-percentage Ponte sheep currently located
5. Dancer, Angie and Stan (Northern CA) 1970s?-1980s; linebred until Stan’s death ~2007
Peter Neverov (North CA-OR border) isolated 2007
6. TAMU San Angelo (West central Texas) start date?, found late 1980s, dispersed 1994
J Kambar (Central OK)
1. Anakus (Northeast WA) isolated 2006
2. DerStepanian (Southeast MI) isolated 2007
3. Six Winds (Central ID) Isolated 2005 to December 2020
Dispersed to 4 small flocks in California, Idaho, Washington & Arizona.
Most will breed Six Winds only, to perpetuate the Bloodline.
1. J Kambar (Central OK), bred for non-fading dark red fleeces since 1990; TAMU whites since 1995
2. Peter Davies Memorial, Turkana (Southeast NY), bred on Pine Lane Farm (PLF) Karakuls since 2001
A directory of the Karakul Bloodlines Breeders along with the outline summary shown above is available for printing.
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 below 3% of a sheep’s ancestry, they will then be counted as 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 [*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.
Deborah Hunter, Alliance Librarian & Historian
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Updated January 2021
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