What is a Karakul Gathering? Breeders getting together to exchange ideas, trade sheep, participate in a show, and learn a few things. They are FUN memorable times!

It has been a long time since US Karakul shepherds have had a Gathering to bring us together. Gathering 1 was Estes Park 1993, Gathering 2 was Maryland 1997. After 25 years, the Alliance was considering 2022, a 2-day sheep and fiber show in the US Heartland.

What could prevent a Gathering from coming together? First-lack of funds. Second-shortage of people, lack of volunteers to pull show details together. And what about enthusiasm from Karakul shepherds-Do they even want to participate in a Gathering?

As KSAR Registrar here is another issue of importance—the Karakul Registry database needs to be well underway before the Alliance attempts a national show. This is not just to manage the sharp increase in registration certificates, but most importantly for tracking the Bloodlines. During Karakul Gatherings sheep are moved around the country, the genetics shift. Before our next Gathering the Alliance needs to be prepared with the tools to manage the Bloodlines, to generate pedigrees, to help plan breeding programs. American Karakuls are close to losing one Bloodline. As we monitor this line, hopefully to be bred back to higher population numbers, we will also preserve the other Karakul Bloodlines.

I will keep you posted as the projects unfold….until then, become absorbed in the photos below of Karakul Gatherings from the 1990s, when Karakul sheep experienced heightened popularity after the Black Sheep craze of the 1970s and 80s. Enjoy! ~ Deborah

1993 Gathering   Estes Park, Colorado   June 10-13

Dr Maurice Shelton, Texas A&M University, Sheep Research Station, San Angelo, TX was the honored speaker and Glen Eidman, Strong City, Kansas was the sheep show judge. This was a coming together of two of the most acclaimed US experts on Karakul sheep, both involved with the breed for a decade and a half. It  was an honor to hear them speak about their experiences and to receive their opinions on our sheep and fleeces. Three of Dr Shelton’s papers have links on our Karakul Sheep page about halfway down.

A month after our First Gathering Myrtle Dow sent a thank you letter to all the participants. Here are some of the details she shared:
° First Gathering took two years of planning. The main organizers were:

  1. Roy & Myrtle Dow as sheep show committee organizers for Estes Park Wool Market
  2. Leslie Johnson for suggesting the idea, assuming many parts of the project and providing moral support
  3. Julia DeVlieg for sending out an interest survey, writing promotional articles and contributing funds.

° Fifteen breeders brought 89 Karakuls to Estes Park. It was breathtaking.
° Seven flocks (five sheep each) were in the showring at once. Thirty-five Karakuls was most impressive! (A show flock is 1 ram any age, 2 yearling ewes, 2 ewe lambs.)
° “It was a privilege to work with such enthusiastic, cooperative, and easy-going people—a most memorable experience. Sheep people are very special…Karakul breeders are even more special.” Myrtle Dow, July 19, 1993


1992, 1996 & 1997 Mini-Gatherings   Estes Park, Colorado

The Estes Park Wool Market sheep show was a favorite amongst Karakul breeders for several years, 1992 through 1997. The NCWGA already had a big presence there and a few shepherds participated in both the Natural Colored and Karakul shows since they were on separate days. It was also ‘home turf’ for Roy & Myrtle Dow who were sheep show committee organizers and superintendents. Karakul people loved hanging out with the Dows and Estes Park, Colorado is a positively beautiful venue, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, which contributed to its success as a Karakul ‘gathering’ spot in mid-June. For a couple of years in the mid-1990s Estes Park Wool Market was referred to as a Karakul ‘Mini-Gathering’.

1997 Gathering Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival  May 3 & 4 

We dove-tailed our second Gathering with the huge annual sheep show in Maryland the first weekend in May 1997. It was chilly and rainy, but good Karakul camaraderie prevailed. We were not granted permission to have a separate fleece show, so we opted to create a Karakul marketplace that looked like a yurt; albeit with corners, not round, to fit the assigned booth spaces. Deborah Hunter-Simon chose, enlarged and cut the letter stencils, with a basic plan conveyed to gifted artist, Mary Jane Coble, who designed the entrance panels. Julia DeVlieg and Diane Magden, Washington state felters, created the eight wall-sized Karakul panels on a mechanical floor-felting machine. Together Julia and Diane had over two hundred Karakuls in the mid-1990s to supply the raw wool for such a large quantity of felt. Michigander Mary Jane Coble had Karakuls about 1980; she was AKSR Flock #9. She bought sheep from Karen Koch, Powell, Ohio soon after Karen bought the registry from Ted Stultz in 1979. Mary Jane has unmatched artistic ability. She created the braided and sewn wool roving techniques, taught Letty, which became the basis for Letty Klein and Ann Brown’s book, The Shepherd’s Rug. They dedicated the book to Mary Jane when it was published in 2006. On the design of our 1997 Karakul Yurt Store, it was positively wonderful creating with the always smiling Mary Jane. It was an honor working with a true Karakul pioneer from the earliest days of the 70s and 80s Black Sheep Craze. ~ Deborah

There are two separate photo galleries–sheep show and yurt store with yurt practice party. Enjoy walking down memory lane with us!

Judge for Karakul sheep show was either Budd Martin or Jim Marshall, Jr.

2001 Gathering  Missouri State Fair, Sedalia, Missouri  August 16 – 18

Letty Klein was Fleece Judge. We are currently seeking photos of this Gathering.


If you can identify an unknown person above, or have photos to share from any Karakul show in the past, please send them to

Page last updated January 2023


Click Home Page here or KARAKUL SHEPHERDS ALLIANCE title at page top

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