Churro Sheep: a rare breed

Here at Shepherd's Lamb, we raise a number of Navajo-Churro sheep with the rest of our flock. The Churro is a rare North American heritage breed with a fleece that ranges in color from white to black and reddish-brown to dark brown. Because Churro wool has a very light grease content, it is possible to spin this wool in-the-grease. Its long fibers and relatively little crimp make it a popular material for hand-spinning and weaving.

History of the Churro sheep

The Navajo-Churro sheep, a descendent of the Churra sheep of Spain, was first brought to North America by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Many Native American tribes in the west of the United States acquired Churro sheep from the explorers and the breed became extremely popular in the Rio Grande Valley region. The Navajo tribe in particular prized the Churro because the long, dense fibers of the wool have a very low lanolin content, making it ideal for spinning without washing and easy to dye with natural vegetable pigments.

By the mid-20th century Government cross-breeding programs had brought the Churro sheep to the brink of extinction. Efforts to preserve the breed began in the 1970s and continue to this day. The Navajo-Churro Sheep Association was established in 1986 to help preserve the species by maintaining breed standards through pedigree documentation. Today, more than 6,000 Churro sheep thrive in the United States, thanks to careful conservation and breed perpetuation measures.