Seeking Karakul Artifacts and Stories
For Writing the History of North American Karakul Sheep – US & Canada
Why study Karakul history?
Because it is not just about the history, but about the collection of personalities, the people involved with Karakul sheep after the first US import in December 1908. Many were in it for the money, several wanted notoriety on top of that, one lost family then his life, one lost fortune and secured his family, prosperity made and lost; the stories are fascinating. The pioneer breeders all cared passionately about Karakul sheep and wanted to see them succeed in this country. I cannot imagine the extreme disappointment many of them felt when the Persian lamb fur market collapsed in the late 1940s, and prices never came back. By the mid-50s fashion had changed and furs were no longer in style.
Since then the breed’s purpose has changed, and enthusiasm has been re-charged in different directions. More than a century after their pioneer innovative shepherding there are new breeders so enthusiastic about this captivating, ancient breed of sheep. I appreciate more now what Karakul pioneers did and what they were forced to give up to have these special sheep.
American and Canadian Karakul sheep are linked through the 1913 and 1914 importations. Approximately 160 Karakuls were in Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island for a two-year study. The 24 best fur-bearing sheep were imported to Fayetteville, central New York state in 1916; most of the hundreds of others stayed in Canada. Years later, hundreds of Karakuls came back to the US and were influential in the development of regional bloodlines. But without enough new genetics added to the Canadian Karakul gene pool over 100+ years, they eventually became quite inbred, were outcrossed with other breeds for genetic necessity or lamb markets, until purebred Karakuls were non-existent. A supportive Canadian Karakul-specific association might have helped mitigate extinction; as all purebred livestock register under one national organization. Just as the Alliance was learning of the extinction in Spring 2022, a new Canadian Karakul breeder on Nova Scotia Island imported three registered Karakul rams from Michigan and bred them to the Karakul cross ewes he was able to locate and purchase. With a Canadian upgrading program, Karakuls will hopefully be thriving again with shepherds up North in the next few years.
It is my hope that you are, or become, as fascinated and intrigued by North American Karakul sheep history as I am. This ancient breed is living, breathing history.
See the link Historical News for short-stories of the past.
**Do you have Karakul history you would like to donate?**
I am a librarian and former shepherdess of the breed. I love Karakul history! Much has been lost, but pieces are coming together! The search for reliable documentation will remain an ongoing project as a historical North American Karakul collection is developed into a large working archive and donated to a museum.
I am looking for 20th century Karakul:
- Large flock books
- Former Registry record books
- Registrations from any US Karakul registry
- Information on Canadian Karakuls from 1914 – present
I am seeking five issues of either the Karakul Journal or the Fur Farming Journal 1948, March through December. Could be numbered vol 1 or vol 2. These have been hard to find and so far seem to be missing from history. I would like to locate some copies if possible.
I am looking for anything on the United Karakul Registry, Twin Falls, Idaho. It operated from about 1940 to 1954, then abruptly ceased (both registry operations and publication of the Fur Farming Journal). This was a large influential registry that operated for almost fifteen years. Official documents have been quite difficult to find.
Also looking for any information on smaller regional registries: Bay State Karakul Registry, Middleborough, Massachusetts and California Karakul Sheep Registry, Pasadena, California. Also the National Purebred Karakul Fur Sheep Registry, Metamora, Michigan, which was more of mid-west regional registry than national.
Besides registrations and record books, specifically I am seeking director/officer lists, membership lists, promotional literature, letters to members, etc.
Contact me first BEFORE shipping please. Most shipping fees will be reimbursed after receipt of historical Karakul materials. The Karakul Archives was started in August 2021 with items logged in and assigned accession numbers. This link is a Deed of Gift that all donors will need to sign. Thanks so much for enriching North American Karakul history.
**I would also appreciate written memories or recollections about Karakul sheep from 20th Century flocks, especially Canadian Karakul breeders.**
Please connect with me by typing in the box below Leave a Reply and hitting Post Comment. I will receive an email but your comment will not be posted online. Or email me in private: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you so much! Deborah
Deborah Hunter, Alliance Web Shepherd, updated January 2023
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