American Karakul Bloodlines
Small isolated flocks will keep the bloodlines going. ~Julia DeVlieg, Summer 2016
The short summary below is a brief compilation of Karakul bloodlines in the United States that are currently thriving, important, relatively new, or recently discovered. The main 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 Please expect additional Bloodlines information to be updated periodically as historical references are checked and the writing comes together.
Current plans are to publish the relatively new and recently discovered Bloodlines online as soon as possible. Mostly, these are isolated and line-bred flocks the Alliance found during the 2017 census, the Multi-Bloodline Composites. Parts of Historic-Foundation Bloodlines stories will be online as well, put current plans are to publish the vast majority of those accounts in a printed Karakul Bloodlines booklet to be offered for sale, hopefully in the near future. Income generated from the Karakul Bloodlines booklet will be put towards the purchase of the very first database for American Karakul sheep, which will track bloodlines, calculate coefficient of inbreeding, manage shepherd addresses, and print registration certificates and pedigrees.
For background on the formation of Bloodlines, please read our Traditional Flocks paper. After three decades of isolation, mid-50s to mid-80s, the first Karakul bloodlines were located in the 1980s and 1990s. This was under the guidance of Julia DeVlieg, after she founded the American Karakul Sheep Registry. The summary shows the progression of the Historic-Foundation Bloodlines through the decades. Also included in the summary is the 2005 import from New Zealand, and the currently known contemporary bloodlines located in 2017.
The bloodlines identified are associated with the Shepherd (Region-State), and country in the case of New Zealand. 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.
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–Isolated and Line-bred. Isolated flocks are Closed having no outside genetic influences. Line-bred flocks are Open bringing in a new ram every two to five years; yet genetics are similar enough to continue selective linebreeding on a color or specific Karakul type.
To be specific, five years of isolation or line-breeding generations means five consecutive years of lamb crops using the selection criteria to develop the bloodline. 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 breedings.
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, lustrous, coarse, small to very large tails, straight, flipped, and in-between. 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 35 years. Karakuls also developed disease and parasite-resistance, large frames for the meat industry, fleeces for fiber crafts, 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.
Historic-Foundation and Multi-Bloodline Composites
Historic-Foundation Bloodlines (20th century italics, 21st century blue font)
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; status currently unknown
5. Dancer, Angie and Stan (Northern CA) 1970s?-1980s; linebred up to Stan’s death ~2007
Peter Neverov (North CA-OR border) isolated 2007
IMPORTED Willowbank Marco (New Zealand) 2005;
Minor status; no semen left, a few grandsons remain still siring lambs
1. Six Winds (Central ID) Isolated 2005
2. Anakus (Northeast WA) isolated 2006
3. DerStepanian (Southeast MI) isolated 2007
1. J Kamber (Central OK), bred for persistent dark red fleeces since 1990
2. Peter Davies Memorial (Southeast NY), bred on Pine Lane Farm (PLF) Karakuls since 2001
A directory of the Karakul Bloodlines Breeders along with the outline summary above is available for printing.
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
2. Hagerman, Lowry 1951. The Karakul Handbook-Selecting and Breeding Karakuls for Fur Improvement. Denver: Smith-Brooks 211 p.
*In 2013 the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) shortened its name to The Livestock Conservancy (LC)
Deborah Hunter, Alliance Web Shepherd
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Updated August 2019
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