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Sunday, November 22 2015

A layer of frost clung to their backs. Clearly they were more concerned with the Border Collie glaring at them through the fence than me as I pretended to ignore them and  busied myself breaking ice in the water troughs. Appearing to be a cross between a sheep and a yak, these walking carpets were different from any sheep I had ever known, and yet something about them stirred my soul. They are primitive, earthy creatures, these walking relics, these reminders of a past that man, in his infinite arrogance, is doomed to repeat time and again.

A white ewe, speckled and splashed with burnt orange splotches regarded me thoughtfully as she chewed. I looked into her eyes and thought about the blood of her ancestors splashed across the pages of American history.

Her ancestors were hidden in canyons while agents of the US Government, went village to village and slaughtered native sheep in front of horrified Indian families who were dependent upon Navajo Churro for wool, meat and milk. For a culture based on sheep, this was devastating.

The government later replaced the dead sheep with "better" animals, non-native European sheep that were more dependent upon water, and not suited for the harsh, desert land. But there, hidden in remote areas, the remaining Navajo Churro sheep survived in secret, like a seed in the desert patiently waiting for rain.

In the 1970's the rain came. The sheep were re-discovered and studied. Like the  Mustang, the Navajo Churro was honed by the brutal conditions of the American West into the hardiest of creatures, uniquely adapted to this environment. Efforts were made to bring back the Navajo Churro sheep from the brink of extinction. While the majority are still found in the Four Corners area, there are pockets of Churro sheep around the country. I was first introduced to them by my Sheep Mother, Dear Friend Sue, who lives on the Arapaho Indian Reservation in Wyoming. She has spent a lifetime raising sheep, and has forgotten more about them than I will ever know. Years ago Sue told me about the Navajo Churro and from that moment I have wanted my own flock. This weekend it fell into my lap.

I was able to acquire a tiny flock of purebred and partbred Churros. While at the Estate Sale, my Other Half took a fancy to the spotted Jacob sheep that were also part of the liquidation of livestock, and so in addition to the Churros, we also came home with three purebred Jacob sheep. At the moment I do not spin, or weave, or knit, or do anything with fiber, so the sudden addition of fiber sheep among my flock seems out of place. And while I do have an interest in these things, and now have the time to learn, my desire to buy the Churro sheep was not about fiber, or making money, it was about history, righting wrongs, gene diversity, and saving an animal from extinction. As my mother so eloquently put it, buying the Churro was about 'giving back to the planet.'

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 08:27 pm   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
Comments:
Absolutely beautiful story! So glad you found your new flock and so glad they found you!
Posted by Janie on 11/23/2015 - 12:22 PM
You have to post pictures of the Jacobs too!!! And of course having the Churros should lead to meeting new friends because those genes need to be spread around, so you'll need friends to trade sheep with. Sheep are so much fun!
Posted by Patty on 11/23/2015 - 07:44 PM
Thank you for sharing this information with us. I find it fascinating, and makes me want to learn more!
Posted by Sharon on 11/24/2015 - 10:37 PM
Okay Patty, I took some pictures of the Jacobs just for you! I'll post them later in the week. :)
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 11/28/2015 - 08:22 AM

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