California Red-What’s That?

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Originally uploaded by galut5

While Corriedale is my first love, California Red is the flirtation I cannot resist. When I want the feel of a wool slipping through my fingers I look for Cal Red.

California Red is a very new breed. They were developed in the 1970’s from crosses of Barbados Blackbelly and Tunis breeds. The original idea was to create a wooless sheep with a better carcass. This was a failure, but the offspring were noticed by another breeder and they further developed these into the breed today.

This breed is athletic and deer like in appearance, but have an easy going temperament that makes them easy to handle. They not only handle heat well, but also cold. Flocks of them can be found from Mississippi on north into Canada. From the dry heat of California to the wet and variable temperatures of New Jersey.

I was introduced to California Red wool by a local shepherd. Unfortunately she no longer lives in my area. At that time she was the only breeder in Wisconsin and I haven’t found anyone else in the state that has them.

California Red has a medium fine oatmeal colored wool interspersed with red hairs. The wool portion is finer than Tunis, but the red hairs produce a product better suited to rugs and outerwear. The texture of the fleece hovers between a down type wool and a fine wool. There is a definite lock structure but it is much coarser than many fine wools. The breed also has an excellent carcass that when judged side by side other breeds scores favorably. This breed is well deserving of the dual meat/wool status it has.

If you get a chance, try your hand at some. You just might be surprised.

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One thought on “California Red-What’s That?

  1. Hi! I am a spinner and a tunis breeder, and have had a chance to try both types of wool several times. I have found little difference in the wool quality, excepting that CA reds have the red hairs and it causes the fleece to feel courser; both are mainly raised for meat, so few people selectively breed for wool qualities in either breed. This causes the wool quality to vary sometimes greatly from one sheep to the next or one flock to the next. Both breeds are considered to grow a ‘medium’ grade fleece. Laurie of Laurie’s Lambs is one that breeds for wool and has had some extrordinary results! I have only had my flock for 4 years so havent had a chance to really improve the fleece, but I am working on it! 🙂
    I have some tunis wool roving if you’re interested in trying it.
    ~~Becky

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