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Animal genetic resources of the USSR

ALAI (Alaiskaya)

The Alai semicoarsewooled breed was formed between 1934 and 1981 in the Alai plain of Osh region of Kirgizia. The peculiar climate of the Alai plain is due to its geography: the plain lies at an average altitude of some 3000 m. The mountains beyond the plain lie at altitudes of 5000 to 7000 m. Native plants there consist chiefly of various steppe, meadow-steppe and meadow grasses, particularly of xerophytes and frost-resistant species. The pastures cannot provide enough feed for livestock.

The task of breeders was to obtain sheep capable of producing a high yield of white carpet wool and to preserve at the same time the meat, fat and adaptive traits of the local fat-rumped sheep. The Alai breed is based on the local fat-rumped sheep, which were similar to the Hissar in terms of their meat and fat traits. The average annual fleece weight was 1.3-1.8 kg per head; the wool was coarse and contained a lot of kemp. Until 1940 local sheep were mated to Précoce rams; since 1952 some were mated to Sary-Ja rams. Further selection, rigid culling, and inter se mating of sheep of the desired type have produced a stock of highly productive Alai fat-rumped semicoarsewooled sheep with white carpet wool.

The number of purebred Alai sheep has increased considerably since 1964. In 1980 there were 47 910 including 277 breeding rams, 870 other rams and 34 055 ewes and yearlings.

The Alai breed has high yields of meat, fat and wool, a strong constitution, and a well-developed frame. The head is slightly Roman-nosed. Ewes are polled but some of the rams have small horns. The neck is of medium length, the chest wide and deep, the back long and straight. The legs are strong, of medium length, well set and with rough hoofs. The rump is of medium size, somewhat sloping in most animals. The covering of the belly is good; the fleece is white with occasional coloured spots on the head and legs.

Live weight of ewes is 58-62 kg and that of rams is 95-105 kg. Lambs at weaning (4-5 months) weigh 30-35 kg. The carcass weight of 5 or 6-month-old lambs is 16.2 kg. The ratio of meat to bone is high - 6:1.

The wool is heterogeneous, white, lustrous and hanging in pointed locks. True wool accounts for 56.7% of the fleece, intermediate wool for 13.7% and guard hairs for 29.6% Kemp is rare. The average staple length is 17-30 cm and the average wool fibre length is 8-12 cm. Fleece weight of ewes is 2.5-3.0 kg and that of rams is 4.5-5.5 kg. Clean wool yield is 65-70%. The Alai breed has one peculiar feature: most sheep do not shed as other fat-rumped sheep do. Lambing rate is 105-106 lambs dropped per hundred ewes lambing.

Five lines exist within the breed.

The best flocks are raised on farms of Alai district in Osh region. The leading farms are the Kashka Suu experimental station, and Kyzyl Suu and Chon Alai state farms.

Further breeding is currently under way, aimed at improving precocity and increasing the wool clip.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

ARMENIAN SEMICOARSEWOOL (Armyanskaya polugrubosherstnaya)

The Armenian Semicoarsewool breed was developed between 1931 and 1983. At present it is raised in Martunin, Ararat, Azizbekov, Ekhegnadzor and Talin districts of Armenia.

The breed was developed in the mountains at altitudes of 1200-3500 m. The rainfall is 450-750 mm and the climate is continental. More than half the agricultural lands are rough mountain pastures. In winter sheep are kept in pens for 3-5 months and receive roughage.

The local Balbas breed was used as the maternal foundation stock. Breeding followed two directions. On Aragats state farm, Balbas ewes were mated to Rambouillet and Lincoln rams producing crosses of the first and second generations. The latter were backcrossed to Balbas rams. Prolonged selection of crosses of the desired type (i.e. with uniform semicoarse white fleece and a large underwool content) and breeding them inter se has resulted in a homogeneous flock of sheep with uniform constitutional and wool traits, designated by the name Aragats type.

Since 1952, ewes of the coarsewooled Balbas breed at large sheep raising farms in the Martunin district were mated to rams from the Aragats farm and half and quarter-blood crosses were produced. The latter were bred inter se; selection and culling helped to fix the valuable traits of this semicoarsewooled sheep - the Martunin type. They have preserved the major constitutional, conformational and biological traits of the Balbas breed and, at the same time, produced more wool of higher quality.

In 1983 there were 12 465 of the Aragats type (including 315 breeding rams, 413 other rams, and 11 737 ewes and yearlings) and 30 924 of the Martunin type (including 1516 breeding rams, 3365 other rams and 26 143 ewes and yearlings).

Sheep of the Armenian semicoarsewool breed are rather large in size and have a strong constitution and a well-developed frame. The head is light with a straight profile. The chest is deep but insufficiently wide. The body is compact, the backline is straight and the rump is somewhat sloping. The legs are strong, of medium length, with hard hoofs. The tail is medium-sized, with two cushions of fat, and reaches the hocks.

Withers height of ewes is 65-69 cm and that of rams is 74-75 cm; height at rump is 67-69 cm and 74-75 cm, chest width 20-21 cm and 23-24 cm, chest depth 31-32 cm and 35-36 cm, oblique body length 65-67 cm and 71-77 cm, chest girth 90-93 cm and 99-101 cm and the cannon bone girth 8.0-8.5 cm and 9.8-10.0 cm respectively.

The average live weight of ewes is 55.0 kg (range 50-68 kg) and that of rams 90 kg (range 68-116 kg). Newborn lambs are strong; males weigh 3-4 kg and females 2.5-3.5 kg. Lambs show rapid weight gains and by the age of 5 months males weigh 28.5-33.5 kg and females 26.0-29.5 kg.

The fleece is heterogeneous, hanging in pointed locks, white in colour, of medium density and adequate lustre. The lock length in case of ewes is 14-20 cm, and wool fibre length is 10-14 cm. The true wool content is 40-60%. The diameter of true wool fibres is 21.0-26.5 /j and that of intermediate and guard hair is 41.2-48.2 m. Kemps are occasionally found in individual sheep. The covering of the belly is good.

Fleece weight of ewes is about 3 kg (range 2.2-4.7 kg) and that of rams is 4.6 kg (range 3.2-7.0 kg). Yearling ewes produce 2.3-3.0 kg of wool and rams 2.5-3.5 kg. The clean wool yield is 69-74%.

Milk yield is good - 100-120 kg. Ewes are usually milked for the first time when lambs reach the age of 45-60 days; each ewe produces 30-40 kg of marketable milk with 6% fat.

Lambing rate depends on the management and varies from 92 to 115 lambs dropped per hundred ewes lambing.

At breeding centres there are 4 lines within each type. Sheep of these lines have a fleece weight 13-15% higher and a body weight 6-8% higher than the average of the entire breed.

The best flocks of Armenian sheep are at Tsakar breeding centre and on Aragats breeding state farm.

Further breeding and selection are aimed at preserving the Aragats and Martunin types and using them to improve the breeding and productive traits of Armenian sheep in general.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

KARGALIN FAT-RUMPED (Kargalinskie kurdyuchnye ovtsi]

These sheep, of the mutton-fat type, have semicoarse wool and a well-developed fat rump; they are zoned for breeding in the desert and semi-desert areas of central and southeastern Kazakhstan.

The breed began to take shape in 1931. The foundation stock were crosses from local fat-rumped ewes and Edilbaev rams. The live weight of crossbred ewes was 66.7 kg and the fleece weight was 2.9 kg. They were mated to Sary-Ja and Degeres semifinewooled rams. Crosses of the desired type were bred inter se.

In order to obtain a large stock of Kargalin sheep the breeding work was transferred from Mynbaev experiment station to farms in Karaganda .and Jeskazgan regions. The soil and climatic conditions of this area are typical of deserts and semi-deserts with scarce stand of grass. Major forage plants are white wormwood (Artemisia), prostrate cypress (Kochia prostrata), and wheatgrass (Agropyron fragile), as well as legumes (e.g. Astragalus) and ephemerals (e.g. Carex physodes and Secale segetale).

In these conditions a breed group of fat-rumped sheep was obtained, Sheep of this breed group can cover long distances and are good grazers.

In 1974 the stock declined considerably but timely measures increased their numbers 7.3 times. In 1980 there were 110 475 including 2467 breeding rams, 1381 other rams and 80 694 ewes and yearlings.

Kargalin sheep have a strong constitution, a solid and well-developed frame and a good conformation. The head is long, of medium size; the neck is short and thick; the body is long and barrel-shaped with correctly-set legs; the back and loin are level; the rump is slightly sloping; the chest is wide, with a prominent brisket; the rump is medium-sized.

Most sheep have semicoarse wool, satisfactory fleece weight and high meat and fat production. Live weight of adult rams is 105-110 kg and fleece weight is 4.86 kg (max. 6.0 kg). Live weight of ewes is 60-64 kg and fleece weight is 2.8-3.1 kg (max. 5.0-5.4 kg). The clean wool yield is 67-69% for rams and 62-64% for adult ewes.

The fleece of Kargalin sheep hangs in pointed locks. The locks consist mainly of intermediate fibres. True wool accounts for 40%, intermediate hair for 50-55% and guard hairs for the rest. The staple length of rams is 23 cm and the wool layer thickness is 14 cm; for ewes the figures are 20 cm and 11 cm respectively. The average diameter of wool fibres from the typical ewe's side is 27.3 m. The wool is relatively uniform. The coefficient of unevenness of fibres in case of ewes is 34.3% with a range from 27.8 to 45.2% (acceptable variations are 60-66%).

Kargalin sheep mature very early and usually drop 105 to 112 lambs per hundred ewes lambing. Newborn lambs are large (males weigh 4.5-5.5 kg and females 4-5 kg) and have rapid weight gains. At weaning (4-4.5 months) the live weight of ram lambs is 37-39 kg and that of ewe lambs is 35.0-36.5 kg with an average daily gain of 260-287 g and 250-263 g respectively. Lambs graze well and rapidly put on weight. At weaning the carcass weight of ram lambs is 17.9 kg representing a carcass yield of 49.3%; at the age of 7-8 months the figures are 23.0 kg and 53.1% respectively. The meat content of the carcass is 80% or more.

Among the most valuable traits of Kargalin sheep are their constitutional strength, high production of mutton and fat, carcass traits, early maturity of lambs which result from the milkiness of the ewes, ability to cover long distances, and good grazing ability in desert and semi-desert conditions. Due to these traits Kargalin rams are successfully used for grading up local fat-rumped ewes. Some 40% of one-year-old first-cross ewes have semicoarse wool; crossbred ewes are 14.3% heavier than the parent ewes and their wool clip is 50% higher.

The breed is zoned for breeding in the central regions of the Kazakh SSR. The best flocks are on Nurinski state farm in Karaganda region, and on Ulutanski state farm in Jezkazgan region.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

SARY-JA (Saradzhinskaya)

The Sary-Ja is one of the best fat-rumped breeds of the mutton-fat type. It originated in southeast Turkmenia where local fat-rumped sheep with a heavy undercoat have been bred inter se and selected for a long time.

Sary-Ja sheep are raised in sandy pastures on the southern borders of the central Kara-Kum desert and on the plain adjacent to the Kopet Dag mountains. The climate there is sharply continental. The arid desert is characterized by high summer temperatures and severe winter frosts. In summer the air temperature is often more than 40oC and in winter it drops below -20oC.

The relief of the southern borders of the Kara-Kum desert is hilly, with low mountain ridges. Pastures are covered with Haloxylon and Carex. They are poor and overgrazed. Therefore carrying capacity is only 7-13 hectares per head. There are occasional plots of land which are covered predominantly with sedge and various annual herbs. These areas provide good year-long pasturage.

The plain, which is adjacent to the Kara-Kum desert and 5-20 kg wide, is covered mainly with sedge (Carex), bluegrass (Poa) and, occasionally, with mugwort (Artemisia). When the season is favourable haymaking is possible and bluegrass hay, which sheep like, is made.

The Sary-Ja is a range breed; sheep are kept on pasture throughout the year. Supplemental feeding is given only to weak sheep and rams during the pre-mating and mating periods. Emergency supply of roughages and concentrates are kept as an insurance against heavy snowfalls and ice-covered grazing.

Since 1950, the Sary-Ja breed has been constantly improved by mating ewes to Degeres rams with the aim of increasing the wool clip and improving the quality of wool while preserving the characteristic features of the Sary-Ja.

At present Sary-Ja sheep are raised in the Turkmen (360 000), Uzbek (218 000) and Kazakh SSRs (200 000). Smaller numbers (27 500) are raised in various regions of the Russian Federation adjacent to the Central Asian republics.

The number of Sary-Ja sheep has more than doubled over the last fifteen years. In 1980 there were 807 952 (68% purebreds) including 24 389 breeding rams, 25 319 other rams and 478 991 ewes and yearlings.

The present-day Sary-Ja sheep have a strong constitution, solid bone and a fat tail. Ewes are usually hornless; some 3-4% of rams have horns, usually scurs. The withers are broad, the back long and broad, and the chest deep. The legs are of medium length, correctly set; the rump is often sloping. A considerable portion of Sary-Ja sheep have defects in conformation: neck not smoothly joined to shoulders, narrow and sharp shoulders, sloping rump, narrow chest, cow-hocked hindlegs.

The live weight of adult rams is 80-90 kg and that of adult ewes is 55-60 kg. The rams exhibited at the Ashkhabad autumn show exceeded 100 kg. Sheep mature early. When fed on desert pastures lambs have an average daily pre-weaning weight gain up to 200 g. The carcass weight of Sary-Ja wethers, including internal fat and fat rump, is 59% of the live weight.

The Sary-Ja produces more wool of relatively better quality than other fat-rumped breeds. Two shearings per year produce 4-5 kg of wool from rams and 3.0-4.0 kg from ewes, with a clean wool yield of 55-60%. The wool is generally white but intermediate fibres in some sheep (0.2-2.7%) are pigmented (Artykov, 1979). The fleece consists of two layers: long fine true-wool fibres (75-80%) and intermediate fibres (13-15%) with some guard hairs (up to 6%). The average staple length is 17 cm and that of wool is 19 cm. The diameter of the true wool fibres is 19 μ , that of intermedite fibres 37 μ and of guard hair 53 μ .

Newborn lambs can be of different colours. By the age of 2-3 months they acquire a greyish colour and the wool of yearlings is almost white but the head and legs remain dark.

Lambing rate is 100-108 lambs dropped per hundred ewes lambing. Newborn lambs are adequate in size: the average birth weight of ram lambs is 5.3 kg and that of ewe lambs is 5.0 kg. By the age of 5 months they reach 33-37 and 26-32 kg respectively. However, after weaning their growth rates slow down due to scarcity of pasture and by the age of one year rams weigh 52 kg and ewes 43 kg.

Some authors believe that the breed has three types, i.e. wool, wool-mutton, and mutton-wool which differ in appearance, productivity, and wool quality.

There is a variety called the Ashkhabad known for higher wool and meat production: the fleece weight is 0.32-1.32 kg higher and the live weight is 5-7 kg heavier than in other sheep.

The best flocks of Sary-Ja sheep are on Turkmenistan Soviet and Forty Years of the USSR collective farms in the Turkmen SSR. These farms produce highly productive sheep which are used as the breeding stock.

The State Flockbook lists only six sires.

Sary-Ja breeding rams are exported to other republics of Central Asia, where they are successfully used for improving the wool quality of local coarsewooled breeds. Sary-Ja rams were used in developing the Tajik and Alai breeds and the Kargalin breed group. In addition sheep of this breed are used in Mongolia to improve the wool quality of the local coarsewooled sheep.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

TAJIK (Tadzhikskaya)

The Tajik semicoarsewooled breed was produced during 1947-63 on an experimental farm of the Tajik Agricultural Research Institute. The initial task was to improve the quality and quantity of wool from local sheep of the Hissar breed and preserve at the same time such valuable traits as the strong constitution, size, early maturity and ability to deposit large quantities of fat in the rump.

To obtain a new breed Hissar and crossbred Hissar-Lincoln ewes were used. The former were mated to Sary-Ja rams, and the latter to halfbred Sary-Ja x Hissar rams. Since sheep of the initial breeds differed greatly in productivity, the first generation was rather heterogeneous. Later, rigid culling and breeding inter se of a small group of animals, which were very close to the desired type, produced a flock of sheep which combine the valuable traits of the initial breeds. Tajik sheep have inherited from the Hissar high meat and fat productivity, and from the Sary-Ja, a heavy fleece weight and good quality semicoarse wool. The Lincoln was also instrumental in positively affecting the quantity and quality of wool.

In the process of selection and culling the feeding and management conditions were considerably improved. In addition to range fodder, sheep received annually some 100 kg of roughage, 200-250 kg of silage, and 40-50 kg of concentrates per head. Moreover, since mating and lambing began 2-2.5 months ahead of the usual periods, sheep stayed longer on good summer ranges. The latter factor contributed to a better fattening by grazing and more effective utilization of both summer and winter ranges.

The number of sheep of the Tajik breed has increased by 50% since 1964. In 1980 the total was 126 470 (78% purebred) including 4552 breeding rams 25 319 other rams and 75 435 ewes and yearlings.

Tajik sheep are sufficiently large in size; they have a well-developed frame, strong constitution, and well-pronounced mutton and fat conformation. The head is light, long and Roman-nosed. Rams are horned and ewes polled. The neck is relatively long and muscular. The chest is broad and deep; the back and sacrum are broad. The legs are long and correctly set; the hoofs are strong. Sheep have a well-developed, tight or somewhat loose, broad rump, which is typical of Hissar sheep. The rump's girth is 97 cm in ewes and 111 cm in rams; it is 26 and 33 cm long respectively.

The live weight of adult ewes is 70 kg (range 56-124 kg) and that of rams is 120 kg (range 110-139 kg).

Sheep are characterized by a high growth rate. Lambs at the age of 4-5 months weigh 42-45 kg or 56% of the live weight of adult ewes. The average daily weight gain of young lambs kept in sheds is 200-210 g.

The wool is not uniform, thread-like in texture, white or light-coloured, sufficiently dense, elastic, and slightly curved. It consists mainly of wool fibres (some 75%) and intermediate hairs (21-22%). The rest (3-4%) is accounted for by guard hair. Kemp is absent. The average fineness of true wool is 20-22 μ , and the length 6-15 cm; the corresponding figures for the intermediate hair are 39-40 μ  and 12-20 cm, and for the guard hair 60-62 μ  and 14-20 cm. The covering hair on the head, ears and legs is tan or reddish brown. The fleece weight (in two shearings) is 2.5-2.6 kg for ewes and 3.5-4.0 kg for rams; the clean wool yield is 69-72%. The shearing of lambs produces 1.4-1.5 kg of wool felt.

The fertility rate of ewes is relatively low, 105-106 lambs dropped per hundred ewes lambing.

The best flocks of Tajik sheep are kept at Dagan-Kiikskoe breeding farm and Kalinin state farm in the Tajik SSR.

Further selection of the breed is aimed at improving growth rate, fleece weight and wool quality while at the same time preserving the sheep's good adaptability to local conditions.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

1. Pelt Breeds
ROMANOV (Romanovskaya)

This breed of the sheepskin and mutton type emerged under the conditions of subsistence economy in the Tutaev district of the Yaroslavl region. The breed appeared at the end of the 17th century and written sources first mention it in 1802.

Northern Short-tailed sheep have been raised from time immemorial in northern, northwestern, and some central regions of Russia. They were also raised throughout the extreme north of Europe. Most successful in improving their sheep, however, were peasants of Yaroslavl region.

The research of Lobashev (1954) has confirmed the opinion of Kuleshov (1925) and Ivanov (1935) concerning the origin of the Romanov breed from the Northern Short-tailed sheep. Selection has resulted in a unique breed of sheep with excellent pelt characteristics and unsurpassed prolificacy. As a rule Romanov sheep drop 2 to 3 lambs (up to 9) per lambing. Ewes may lamb twice a year if the feeding and management are good. Cases have been recorded in which a ewe produced up to 14 lambs in two lambings.

Romanov sheep are raised in more than 30 regions of the Russian Federation. The largest numbers are kept in Yaroslavl, Ivanovo, Kostroma, Vologda, Archangel, Kalinin, Vladimir, Perm, Sverdlovsk, Novgorod, Smolensk and Kirov regions and in the Udmurt and Komi ASSRs. Good breeding flocks of Romanov sheep are also raised in Byelorussia.

The number of Romanov sheep has remained fairly steady over the last fifteen years. In 1980 the total was 523 008 (89% purebreds) including 9951 breeding rams, 5054 other rams and 290 657 ewes and yearlings.

Romanov sheep are relatively small in size. There are three types within the breed: coarse, fine and normal or standard. Sheep of the first type are characterized by coarse conformation, well-developed horns in rams and small horns in ewes. The wool is dark in colour due to a large guard-hair content (the ratio of guard hair to true wool fibres is more than 1:4); guard hair is much longer than wool. Locks are almost straight and form a mane in rams. The skin is thick and coarse.

Sheep of the fine type have fine bone and the body is narrow. Both rams and ewes are polled. The fleece contains a high proportion of true wool fibres - 10-12 times as much as guard hair. The wool is always longer than the guard hair. The skin is thin. Pelts are attractive in appearance, light blue in colour; however they do not wear well since the wool soon gets felted.

Sheep of the standard type have a strong constitution and a barrel-shaped body on long legs. The head is not large, clean-cut, and Roman nosed. The head is black, with a wide white stripe. Sheep are horned or polled. The (true) wool content by weight is twice as great as that of guard hair. In sheep of this type the wool is always longer than the guard hair. Due to a good wool-hair ratio (4-10:1 in fibre numbers), the wool does not get felted and has a nice grey colour with a shade of blue. The best skins are obtained from lambs of 4-6 months of age. Lambs are usually slaughtered at the age of 8-9 months when, after shearing of lamb's wool, guard hair has grown 2.4-3.0 cm and wool 4.6 cm.

The live weight of ewes is 45-50 kg and that of rams is 55-80 kg. The annual fleece weight in 3 or 4 shearings is 2.0-2.5 kg for rams and 1.5-1.8 kg for ewes. Sheep of the standard type have better productive traits (see Table 4.2).

Romanov sheep have some weak points in conformation, e.g. sharp shoulders, narrow chest, sway back, narrow and sloping rump and legs too close together.


Trait Standard Coarse Fine
Live weight (kg) 42.8 42.4 37.7
Fleece weight (kg) 1.36 1.49 0.99
Litter size 2.24 2.04 1.92
Birth weight of twins (kg) 3.08 3.15 2.70
Milk yield of ewes with twins in 20 days (kg) 33.7 22.0 25.0

Unlike sheep of other breeds, the wool of typical Romanov sheep consists only of guard hairs and true wool. The hair is short and black, and the wool is long and white. In all coarsewooled breeds follicles form in 3 or 4 stages. The formation of hair follicles in Romanov sheep has its own peculiarities (Panin, 1963). First the follicles producing guard hair are formed. Then, after a pause, wool-producing follicles emerge. In other words, follicles form in only two stages.

Romanov sheep are known for their exceptional prolificacy: in a total of 110 000 lambings, 20.2% of ewes gave singles, 51.3% twins, 24.2% triplets and 4.3% four lambs or more. The average number of lambs dropped per lambing was 2.15 (Korenev, 1964). The best shepherds obtain 250-300 lambs per hundred ewes lambing.

Selection for fecundity in Romanov sheep has eliminated the seasonal character of oestrus. Therefore, sheep can come into heat at any time of the year. Pregnancy lasts 140-150 days, i.e. it is shorter than in other breeds.

Milk yield of Romanov ewes is usually high. Well-fed ewes produce 140-150 kg in 100 days of lactation; the best ewes produce 200-230 kg. The live weight of lambs at weaning (100-120 days) is 16 kg and at 8-9 months it is 35-40 kg. Ewes are mated at the age of 14-18 months when their live weight is 38-40 kg.

On many farms, the offspring of one ewe produce 2 or 3 high-quality lambskins and 80-100 kg of yearling mutton.

Romanov sheep are well adapted to local feeding and climatic conditions; they tolerate cold weather and temperature fluctuations. Dampness and strong concentrations of ammonia in pens are ruinous for them.

The distribution of Romanov sheep is wide. The best flocks and the largest number are in Yaroslavl, Ivanovo, Kostroma, -Kalinin and other regions of the northwestern, central and Volga-Vyatka economic areas of the Russian Federation. The State Flockbook lists 2481 sheep including 127 sires. Sheep of this breed are widely used abroad for crossing in order to increase out-of-season breeding, prolificacy and precocity in other breeds.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

2. Fur Breeds
KARAKUL (Karakulskaya)

The Karakul breed is the leading fur-producing breed. Karakul sheep are raised in the Uzbek, Turkmen, Tajik and Kazakh SSRs, in parts of Moldavia and in the south of the Ukraine. In the latter two regions Karakul sheep are not of decisive importance.

There are various views concerning the origin of the Karakul. Two of them are of particular interest. Proponents of the first theory evoke the studies of Young (USA) and their own experiments to substantiate the view that the Karakul breed developed recently from crossing a long-tailed black coarsewooled sheep from Bukhara (the so-called Danadara), with Afghani and local fat-rumped sheep. The former cross gave grey, and the latter black, Danadara sheep.

Kuleshov (1947) believed that the Karakul breed emerged through centuries-long selection of lambs on the basis of the curl in the birth coat.' Ivanov (1964) thought that the most realistic is Adage's' theory that Karakul sheep appeared many centuries B.C. by mutations for fat tail and curly lamb coat. Professor Durst's excavations at Anau in the vicinity of Ashkhabad unearthed the remnants of an ancient sheep, which is similar to the Karakul. It is believed that Karakul sheep appeared in Central Asia in the 8th century when the territory of Turkestan (Bukhara, Khiva, etc.) was conquered by the Arabs. In Uzbekistan, Karakul sheep are called "Arabi" which suggests that Karakuls are related to Arab sheep. At the same time Ivanov does not reject the view that present-day Karakul sheep are not the pure fur sheep brought by Arabs. He believes that they were crossed with fat-rumped sheep. This hypothesis is supported by Ivanov's data showing that the Karakul tail shape recurs in crosses of fat-rumped with long-tailed or fat-tailed sheep.

The constitution and productive traits of Karakul sheep were shaped in the conditions of year-long extensive husbandry and a dry, hot climate. They are characterized by endurance and adaptability to life in deserts.

Karakul sheep have long broad tails with a lot of fat. The tip of the tail,of the same colour as the newborn lamb.

Karakul sheep vary in constitution, conformation and wool. The live weight of rams is 60-70 kg and that of ewes is 45-50 kg. The average annual fleece weight is 2.5-2.6 kg; when fed properly, sheep can produce 3.0-3.5 kg of wool per head. Three constitutional types are distinguished within the breed, regardless, of the lamb's coat colour: strong, coarse, and fine.

Sheep of the strong type have a spare frame. The skin is thin and firm. The fleece consists of guard hair of medium thickness and of curly wool. Locks are silky and covered with yolk. The fleece weight is higher than in sheep of the fine type and lower than in sheep of the coarse type. Sheep of the strong type produce the lambskins of the most valuable Persian lamb type. The lambskin is lustrous, silky and beautifully patterned. Sheep of this type are hardy and agile, they can effectively utilize desert plants and are the most desirable for breeding.

In sheep of the coarse type (Ak-gol), the head, legs and belly are poorly covered with wool. The skin is thick, often porous. The fleece is coarse and contains a lot of guard hair; the true wool is short and thin. The locks are long and curly.

Sheep of the fine type are divided into nazykh and kyryk. In general they have a fine, refined or even overdeveloped frame, and a narrow body. The head is fine, with elongated facial bones. The skin is thin. The wool in general consists of true wool and intermediate fibres, with in length it is slightly longer than the true wool. The fleece is often felted. Sheep of the fine type are not suited to range keeping in winter; they are less sought after. This is particularly true in the case of the kyryk sub-type.

Karakul sheep are not prolific; the average number of lambs dropped per hundred ewes is 110. This stimulated the scientists in Askania Nova to develop a new type of Karakul sheep with a lambing rate of 170-180 lambs per hundred ewes. It was obtained by mating Karakul ewes to Romanov rams and followed by rigid selection of sheep of the desired type on the basis of their prolificacy and the quality of fur. Sheep of the desired type were then bred inter se.

Milk yield of Karakul sheep is not high. However, since more than half the ewes are relieved of their lambs when they are slaughtered for their skins at the age of three days sheep milk is an important source of earnings for Karakul breeders. According to Averyanov, milking of ewes in Central Asia produces 25-30 kg of milk per head, with 7-8% fat.

The number of sheep of the Karakul breed has remained constant over the last fifteen years. In 1980 the total was 12 431 977 (96% purebreds) including 375 047 b-reeding rams 257 765 other rams and 8 582 464 ewes and yearlings.

There are many breeding strains. For example, strains of black sheep are bred at the following breeding centres: Ravnina and Uch Aji (Turkmen SSR), Nizhan, Kara-Kum, Mubarek and Kenimekh (Uzbek SSR), and Zadarinski (Kazakh SSR). In recent years new types of coloured and grey Karakul sheep have been obtained at Gagarin, Kara-Kum and Nurata breeding centres, on Uzbekistan and Communism collective farms and at Ayak Agitma livestock breeding experiment station in the Uzbek SSR.

On 1 January 1980 the State Flockbook listed 6739 superior sheep of the Karakul breed, including 888 sires.

All breeding farms use pure breeding, with positive and negative assortative mating. Karakul sheep are widely used for improving other fur breeds.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

SOKOLKI (Sokolskaya)

The breed belongs to the fur-milk type. It was produced by selection for fur qualities of local breeds of the fur-milk type. The Karakul was used in improvement.

According to the breed regionalization plan this breed is raised mainly in Poltava region and some districts of Dnepropetrovsk, Cherkassy, and Kharkov regions of the Ukraine. One should mention particularly Kremenchug district of Poltava region where there is the village of Sokolki after which the breed is named.

Grey lambskins are the main product of the breed. Although Sokolki lambskins are somewhat inferior to the Karakul, they are still valued for their beautiful colour which varies from light to bluish grey or steel. A few animals are black.

Sokolki sheep are small in size, have a harmonious conformation and a long tail free of fat. The live weight of rams is 60-70 kg and that of ewes is 42-46 kg. Meat production is adequate provided sheep are properly fed. The average daily weight gain in adult sheep (ewes and wethers) fed both in confinement and on pasture for six weeks in October and November was 110 g. At the end of fattening the live weight of wethers was 56.8 kg and that of ewes 47.8 kg. The average carcass weight of ewes was 22 kg and that of wethers 26 kg with a slaugher yield of 46.0 and 47.1% respectively.

The wool clip from rams is 3-3.5 kg (max. 4.8 kg) and that from ewes is 2-2.5 kg. The wool is coarse and of various shades of grey.

Sokolki sheep are bred pure using positive and negative assortative mating on the basis of colour. Since grey lambskins are valued more highly than other colours, both grey and black ewes are mated to grey rams in order to ensure the maximum numbers of grey lambs. The quality of grey lambskin obtained by mating grey to grey is much higher. However, some of the lambs are born so weak that at the age of three to four months some 25% of lambs (the homozygotes) die of chronic tympanitis. Therefore some experts recommend that heterozygous grey lambs be produced since they do not suffer from tympanitis. In order to obtain such lambs black ewes are mated to grey rams (in this case 51.3% of the offspring are grey) or grey ewes to black rams. Mating black to black or grey to grey is supposed to be used on breeding farms for elite and the best first-grade ewes.

Within the Sokolki breed there are 5 sire lines. Of interest are the crosses obtained by mating ewes of different colour to rams of individual strains.

Sokolki sheep are very fertile: they produce 125-135 (sometimes up to 160) lambs per hundred ewes. Milk yield of ewes is good: ewes not feeding their lambs produce 60-75 kg of milk in a lactation of 4.5 months.

The number of Sokolki sheep has increased slightly over the last fifteen years. In 1980 the total was 190 428 (88% purebreds) including 5861 breeding rams, 4973 other rams and 140 795 ewes and yearlings.

The best flocks of Sokolki sheep are on Iskra, Pobeda, 21st CPSU Congress, 'Kotovski and Znamya Kommunizma collective farms in Poltava region.  Commercial farms which raise Sokolki sheep occasionally use Karakul rams.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

3.   Mutton-Fat Breeds
EDILBAEV (Edilbaevskaya)

This is a coarse-wooled breed of the mutton-fat type. It was obtained in the 19th century by mating Kazakh fat-rumped ewes to coarsewooled rams from Astrakhan. During this process animals most suited to the natural and climatic conditions of nomadic sheep husbandry were selected. Sheep of this breed can stand severe winter frosts and summer droughts. They can easily cover long distances and, due to their morphological and physiological features, graze well on scarce coarse pastures.

According to the breed regionalization plan Edilbaev sheep are raised in Karaganda, Guryev, Aktyubinsk, Semipalatinsk, Kustanai, Uralsk, Jezgazgan and Pavlodar regions of Kazakhstan.

Edilbaev sheep have a strong constitution, a good conformation and a well-developed fat rump. In terms of their meat and fat traits they are inferior only to the Hissar. Both rams and ewes are polled. Withers height is 75-84 cm and chest girth is 97-106 cm. Live weight of rams is 110-120 kg (max. 150-160 kg) and that of ewes is 65-70 kg (max. 90-100 kg). They have a rapid growth rate and are early maturing. Birth weight of males is 6.0 kg and that of females is 5.2-5.3 kg. Weaning weight (at 4.0-4.5 months) is 40-45 and 35-40 kg respectively. At the age of 18 months rams weigh 80 kg and ewes 65 kg. Carcass weight at the age of 4 months is 20-24 kg and rump weight is 3-4 kg. According to the data compiled by the former Temir experimental station (Kazakh SSR), the live weight of Edilbaev lambs on good pasture was 17.7 kg at the age of one month, 28.7 at two, 35.8 at three, 42.4 at four, and 43.5 kg at six months. The average daily gain was 195 g and the maximum 253 g. This shows the extreme precocity of the breed. The carcass weight of fat adult wethers may reach 40-45 kg and the rump fat may weigh as much as 12-14 kg. The meat and fat yield is 50-55%.

Edilbaev sheep surpass other coarsewooled fat-rumped breeds in wool production. The average fleece weight is 3.0-3.5 kg (max. 5.0 kg) for rams and 2.3-2.6 kg for ewes. The wool is not uniform and consists of true wool (52-56%), intermediate fibres (16-19%), and guard hair (24-28%). Kemp is found only in a very small number of sheep. According to laboratory data, the wool fineness is 18.0 μ, that of intermediate fibres 33.1 μ and of guard hair 59.5 μ.

Edilbaev sheep are predominantly black or tan; they may also be brown. Sheep of different colours differ in productivity. For example, it has been shown that black ewes have a fleece weight 7.5-11.8% higher and a live weight 2.2-6.9% heavier than tan sheep. Their carcass traits are also better. Brown sheep are equally productive.

Lambing rate is low - only 110-120 lambs dropped per hundred ewes lambing. Milk yield of ewes is sufficiently high. According to data of the former Temir experimental station, ewes average 150-155 litres with a range of 124.8-184.3 litres. Commercialized milk is used for production of airan (sour milk), primchik (cheese), kurt (cheese) and butter. The average fat content is 5.8% with a range of 3-9%.

The number of Edilbaev sheep has nearly doubled over the last fifteen years. In 1980 the total was 5 256 059 (46% purebreds) including 137 798 breeding rams, 22 269 other rams and 3 707 411 ewes and yearlings.

The best flocks of this breed are on Brklinski breeding centre in Urals region, Suyundukski breeding centre in Guryev region, and Sarysuiski breeding state farm in Jezgazgan region of the Kazakh SSR.

On 1 January 1980 the State Flockbook listed 5182 superior sheep of the Edilbaev breed including 4582 rams. Edilbaev rams are used for improving wool and meat production of local breeds of the mutton-fat type.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

HISSAR (Gissarskaya)

This is a coarsewooled fat-rumped breed of the mutton-fat type. It was obtained by selection in the conditions of year-long range husbandry in Tajikistan and was bred by Uzbek tribes which migrated there with their sheep flocks in the 13th-14th centuries. Sheep of this breed are raised in the centre of the Tajik SSR (Karagach, Dushanbe, Faizabad, Kulyab, Kurgan-Tyube) and in the foothills and mountains of Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya regions of the Uzbek SSR (Baisun, Denau, Sariasia, Shurchi, Sherabad). As Ivanov points out, Hissar sheep are an isolated race of fat-rumped sheep. They were extensively studied for the first time by an expedition of the Moscow Zootechnical Institute during 1921-28, headed by S.G. Azarov. Azarov believed that the isolation took place due to the remoteness and the natural, historic, and economic peculiarities of the areas (the Lokai plain, for example), where Hissar sheep are raised.

Hissar sheep are not only the largest of the fat-rumped breeds, but they are larger than the Lincoln, the biggest European sheep. Withers height of ewes is 75-80 cm and that of rams is 80-85 cm. Oblique body length is 75 and 85 cm and depth of chest is 34 and 35.5 respectively.

Sheep of this breed have a strong and sound frame, a long, broad and deep body and a well-developed elevated rump where the reserve fat is deposited. The fat serves as an insurance against seasonal fluctuations in forage supplies. In ewes the rump is some 40 cm long and 29 cm wide; in rams, the respective figures are 48 cm and 40 cm. The head is massive and Roman-nosed; the ears are long and pendent. The neck is short and thick. Ewes are polled but some rams have small horns. Hissar sheep are well adapted to local environmental conditions and are easily able to cover the long distances (400-500 km) from winter quarters to high-altitude summer ranges. When pastured on alpine and sub-alpine ranges, Hissar sheep graze well and deposit large quantities of fat in the rump.

The live weight of rams is 130-140 kg (max. 180-190 kg) and that of ewes is 70-80 kg (max. 100-120 kg). The carcass weight of adult sheep is 58-60% of their live weight. The young mature very early: during the first 2-3 months they gain at the rate of 500-600 g a day. At weaning ram lambs weigh 47-50 kg and ewe lambs 46-48 kg. On pasture, wethers on the Hissar breeding farm in the Tajik SSR had a live weight of 128 kg and a carcass weight of 87 kg. The rump weighed 23 kg. Individual wethers produced up to 64 kg of fat.

At the same time Hissar sheep produce very little wool and it is the coarsest among all varieties of fat-rumped sheep. The average fleece weight is 1.3-1.6 kg for rams and 1.0-1.4 kg for ewes. The wool contains a lot of guard hair and kemp -18-34% in ewes and 11-24% in rams. The wool is used mainly for felt production. Hissar sheep are dark tan or black in colour. Lambing rate is low - 110-115 lambs dropped per hundred ewes lambing. Milk yield is sufficiently high - 1.8-2.3 kg per day. According to Farsykhanov, the milk yield per ewe is 100-120 litres in a 2-month lactation.

The number of Hissar sheep has declined somewhat over the last fifteen years. In 1980 the total was 478 290 (97% purebreds) including 14 163 breeding rams, 11 617 rams and 275 668 ewes and yearlings.

Three types of Hissar sheep are currently distinguished: mutton, mutton-fat, and fat; they differ in conformation and in rump size and position. Sheep of the mutton type have a tight, scarcely noticeable rump which is hidden in the body, as it were. Sheep of the mutton-fat type have a large rump level with the back; grazing sheep have a somewhat bulging rump. Sheep of the fat type have a large sharply protruding rump, which in some animals is as big as one third of the body. Studies of the Uzbek Institute of Livestock Breeding have shown that the three types differ in growth rate, carcass traits and composition of weight gains. Grazing sheep of the mutton type have larger weight gains than sheep of the fat type and smaller yields of rump fat.

The best breeding flocks of Hissar sheep are on the Hissar, Rokh Lenin, and Komsomol breeding farms of the Tajik SSR, and on the Baisun breeding state farm of the Uzbek SSR.

The leading flock of the Hissar breeding centre has four lines. The first line combines all the best traits of the breed. One of the branches of this line is bred on Rokhi Lenin breeding centre in Hissar district.   The  second strain is characterized by earlier maturity and a higher lamb crop at weaning. Lambs of this strain are also heavier.  The third strain is characterized by prolificacy. The fourth strain was established in 1979 on the basis of well-pronounced meat conformation.

On 1 January 1980 the State Flockbook listed 25 ewes of the Hissar breed.

In recent years, along with pure breeding, in some flocks, particularly in commercial ones, Hissar ewes are mated to rams of other breeds, in order to improve the wool. Hissar sheep are widely used for improving early maturity and meat and fat traits of other breeds of the same type.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

JAIDARA (Dzhaidara)

This is a local fat-rumped breed of the mutton-fat type. According to the breed regionalization plan, the breed is raised in all districts of Uzbekistan except the western desert and semi-desert or mountain areas where the Karakul and Hissar breeds are raised. This breed has also gained wide popularity in northern Tajikistan (Aini, Penjikent, Ura-Tyube, Ganchi and Nau regions).

In these areas sheep are kept on pastures in the foothills and at high altitudes except for a short period of confinement in winter. Winter and spring ranges lie at a height of 2000-2500 m and summer and autumn pastures at 2500-4000 m above sea level. Native plants on meadow lands include foxtail (Alopecurus), bromegrass (Bromopsis), fescue (Festuca), hairgrass (Koeleria), cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata), bluegrass (Poa), vetch (Vicia), mugwort (Artemisia) and small shrubs. The climate is continental, with temperature fluctuations from -15 C to +30 C. The environmental conditions and centuries-old experience of the local people have determined the boundaries of the area where sheep of this breed are currently raised.

The number of Jaidara sheep has declined slightly over the last fifteen years. In 1980 the total was 876 458 (96% purebreds) including 34 111 breeding rams, 40 779 other rams and 496 506 ewes and yearlings.

The distinctive features of the breed are the short legs and the elongated body which somehow predetermine their good ability to graze. Jaidara sheep are large in size and have a sound frame and proportional conformation. Most sheep are slightly Roman-nosed, with a long head and long ears. Both sexes are polled. The neck is short and straight, sufficiently thick. The shoulders are broad; the back is usually straight, broad and strong; the hindquarters are also wide and slightly sloping. The chest is wide and deep; the fat rump is broad and prominent; in some sheep it is somewhat pendent. The legs are strong and correctly set with tough hoofs.

The wool cover is complete. Sheep are black (65-68%), tan (24-26%), grey or brown of various shades.

According to the data of the Uzbek Livestock Research Institute, Jaidara sheep measure 76.3 cm high at withers (range 68-84 cm) and 80.8 cm long from shoulder to base of tail (range 73-88 cm). Chest girth is 96.2 cm (range 87-107 cm) and width of thighs is 21.1 cm (range 18-24 cm). Jaidara sheep mature at a rather early age. They almost stop growing by the age of 2.5 years. Individual sheep reach the live weight and size of adults by the age of 18 months. Changes in the live weight of Jaidara sheep are given in Table 4.3




Age group Average Range Average Range
Newborn lambs 5.6 3.5-9.0 5.2 3.5-7.5
4 months 44.0 36-64 41.3 30-56
18 months 88.0 64-90 66.3 42-80
Adults 105.0 95-128 73.6 60-84

Jaidara sheep have a high production of mutton and fat. The average live weight of wethers at the age of 18 months is 80 kg; the carcass weight is 45 kg or 55% of the live weight (range 52-56%). The fat yield is 22% of the carcass weight of adult sheep and 10-15% in lambs.

The wool of Jaidara sheep lacks uniformity; it is sufficiently dense and soft. It consists of true wool (46-61%), intermediate fibres (7-18%), guard hair (21-26%) and kemp (9-16%). The wool of adult sheep is straight and hangs in pointed locks which are 8-11 cm long. The clean wool yield is 56-60%.

The annual fleece weight of ewes is 2.0-2.5 kg (range 1.2-5.0 kg) and that of rams is 2.8-3.5 kg (range 2.2-6.0 kg). the wool is used mainly for coarse cloth, felt and felt boots, and other home-made items.

The combined thickness of the skin and papillary layer in Jaidara sheep is higher and the number of hair follicles per unit area is less than in the Lincoln and Merino. Collagen fibres form a dense, predominantly horizontal pattern.

Investigation of polymorphic systems in Jaidara sheep revealed 8 transferrin alleles and 2 alleles each of pre-albumin and post-albumin. Ewes and lambs with transferrin of the AB type and FS carbonic anhydrase had higher live weight, body length and fleece weight.

The Jaidara breed is well known for hardiness and has great commercial value. Sheep of this breed can subsist on natural pastures almost throughout the year. They are able to graze well and deposit extra fat in the rump. These traits are particularly important for improving other breeds of the same type.

The most productive flocks are raised in Kara-Kalpak, Gallyaaral, and Zaamin districts of Samarkand region and Khovast district of Tashkent region of the Uzbek SSR, and also in some districts of Leninabad region of the Tajik SSR. The best breeding flocks are on Yangi-Dekhkan and Chkalov collective farms in Samarkand region.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

4.   Mutton-Wool Coarsewooled Breeds
KUCHUGURY (Kuchugurovskaya)

Kuchugury sheep originated in the village of Kuchugury and adjacent localities of Nizhnedevitsk district of Voronezh region in the second half of the 19th century. Sheep of this breed have uniform coarse wool. They were produced by mating local long-thin-tailed ewes with large Voloshian rams which were raised at that time in the Don and Caspian steppes. M.F. Ivanov, who visited Kuchugury in 1916, states that the blood of some improved breed was added to these crosses. This view is supported by the breed's relative precocity, waviness of wool and improved conformation. Among other factors in the development of this breed, were good feeding and management on peasant farms, careful selection for size, and high prices for breeding animals.

According to the breed regionalization plan, the best and largest flocks of Kuchugury sheep are raised on state and collective farms of Voronezh and Kursk regions.

The stock of this breed has declined to almost one tenth of its numbers in 1964. In 1980 the total was only 7816 (all purebreds) including 68 breeding rams, 76 other rams and 6381 ewes and yearlings.

Kuchugury sheep have a strong constitution, a lively temperament, and good agility. The frame is solid and well developed. They have long fat tails. Both rams and ewes are predominantly hornless; only 10% have horns. The head is densely covered with curly wool. The body is of regular shape, although a large and heavy tail tends to raise the hindquarters. The shoulders, back and loin are wide. The legs are correctly set, strong and wooled almost down to the hoofs. The tail is long; at its root there is a broad flat pad of fat which gradually narrows to the tip. The fat tail weighs 15-18 kg.

The average live weight of ewes is 55 kg (range 40-79 kg) and that of rams is 73 kg (range 49-100 kg). The maximum live weight of ewes is 80 kg and that of rams is 145 kg. Lambs grow rapidly and by the age of 6 months weigh 32-37 kg. Sheep continue to grow to the age of 3.5 to 4 years.

About 70% are black and 30% white. Most black sheep have a white spot on the head.

Ewes are usually shorn twice a year. Rams are shorn once a year, in spring. The fleece weight data are given in Table 4.4


 Category Average Range
Breeding rams 5.0 4.6-6.5
Yearling rams 2.7 2.2-4.5
Ewes 2.3 1.8-4.5
Yearling ewes 2.5 1.6-4.2
Lambs (hoggs) 1.5 0.6-2.2

True wool fibres account for 86-92% of the ewe's wool. The diameter of guard hair is usually 57-62 μ and that of true wool is 21-33 μ. The annual length of guard hair is 33 cm, and that of true wool is 12 cm. The fleece hangs in wavy corkscrew-like locks. The clean wool yield is about 70%. The wool is used for worsted spinning and coarse carpets.

Lambing rate is 120-130 lambs dropped per hundred ewes lambing. Barenness does not exceed 2-3%. Newborn lambs are strong and active with a live weight of 4.2-4.9 kg.

Most of the Kuchugury sheep are raised on breeding farms of Nizhnedevitsk district of Voronezh region. Breeding rams are successfully used for improving coarsewooled breeds in other areas.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

MIKHNOV (Mikhnovskaya)

Mikhnov sheep were developed in the former Ostrogozhsk district of Voronezh region, now Ostrogozhsk, Liski and Evdakov districts. These sheep were first mentioned in literature in 1880.

The origin of these sheep was long in dispute. Recently it has been established that the Mikhnov sheep are a variety of local coarsewooled sheep produced as the result of long-term selection and improved feeding and management. At the beginning of this century Mikhnov ewes were mated with Lincoln, Cotswold and Oxford rams. The fact that the Mikhnov sheep are an independent fixed variety is confirmed by their fleece structure. Since 1936, nearly all Mikhnov ewes have been crossed with Romney Marsh and Lincoln rams. As a result two breed groups were formed: Ostrogozhsk and Liski. In 1975 the latter was recognized as an intra-breed type of the Russian Longwool breed. The Mikhnov sheep now remain as purebreds only on individual holdings in the Evdakov district of the Voronezh region.

Compared with other coarsewooled breeds Mikhnovs are noted for larger size and better performance. The head is broad with a Roman nose which is more pronounced in rams. Rams have coiled horns; ewes are polled. The head is fleeced down to the eyes. The face is covered with short glossy hair of dark chestnut colour; sometimes it is nearly black or speckled. The body stands on thin strong legs which are correctly set. They are covered with short glossy hair of the same colour as the face. The tail is thin and up to 35-49 cm long. The ribs are poorly sprung and the bone is somewhat light. The average measurements of Mikhnov sheep are given in Table 4.5


Measurements Rams Ewes
Head length 24.3 22.7

Head width



Height at withers



Height at rump



Body length



Chest depth



Chest girth



Width behind shoulders



Width at hip



Cannon bone girth 9.8 8.7

The live weight of rams is 75-85 kg (max. 108 kg), that of ewes 52-66 kg (max. 78 kg). Birth weight of healthy lambs is 3.5 kg for males and 3.3 kg for females. At weaning they weigh 20 and 19 kg respectively. Skin is rather dense and elastic, pink over the whole body. The fleece is white; some animals may have isolated coloured fibres on the hindquarters.

Fleece has a tippy staple of medium fineness. Staples are made of long (7-10 cm) undercoat with fibres of 26-28 &mu: diameter, rather coarse (40-50 μ intermediate hair, and long (15-17 cm) guard hairs of 60-65 μ diameter. Medulla in the last is poorly developed and at the end of the staple it disappears entirely. Average proportion of guard hair is 41.3% of the total wool, intermediate hair 14.1% and undercoat 44.6%. Long undercoat and thin outer coat are the main positive characteristics of the Mikhnov sheep.

Annual fleece weight of rams is 4.8-5.5 kg (max. 7.0), that of ewes 4.0-4.7 kg (max. 6.0 kg). The autumn shearing gives 20% less than the spring one. The clean wool yield is 60-70%. The lamb's fleece weight is 0.8-1.5 kg.

Wool is mainly semicoarse. According to the Central Wool Research Institute only 22% of wool is graded as coarse; the rest is considered semicoarse. Fleece is even in fineness. Most fleece is sorted into two grades.

The fresh pelts account for 6-7% of body weight. Fur quality is good. They make good sheepskins. Mikhnovs fatten well for 1-1.5 months without any supplementary feeding. At slaughter the animals yield carcasses evenly covered with fat and with a lot of suet. On test slaughter 5-6-year-old ewes of 53.1 kg live weight (after fasting) had an average slaughter weight of 26.6 kg and dressing yield of 50.2%. Of these carcasses 55.4% were graded prime and 32% choice. The meat and fat content was 82% and the bone 18%.

Mikhnov sheep, because of their high wool quality, good pelts, and low requirements in feed and management conditions, are used for grading-up coarsewooled sheep with low productivity.

VOLOSHIAN (Voloshskaya)

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries the Voloshian breed was kept in many parts of Russia and was considered one of the best of the coarsewooled breeds. After thorough investigation M.F. Ivanov divided the Voloshian sheep into several types: Steppe, Trans-Don, Voronezh (Nizhnedevitsk), Pyrny, and longwool crosses.

The purest type is the Steppe Voloshian which was raised in the North Caucasus and Lower Volga areas. There they were the base for developing finewool sheep husbandry.

The Steppe Voloshian is characterized by large size: the live weight of ewes is 43-46 kg and that of rams 60-80 kg. Body measurements are as follows: height at withers 61.2 cm (range 61-74 cm), chest girth 85.0 cm, chest depth 29.3 cm (range 27.3-51.5 cm). The tail is very long, occasionally touching the ground; it is broad and fat at the base and gradually narrows to the tip. Sometimes it is narrow and sways during mating.

The wool is usually white; black sheep are rare. It consists of 78.6% of undercoat and 21.4% of outercoat; the fineness is 23.1 and 56.3 m respectively. The fleece hangs in pointed locks on which crimps are seen. The wool production is fairly high - ewes shear 2.5-3.0 kg and rams 3-4 kg.

Prolificacy is good - 120-130 lambs per ewe lambing.

At present Voloshian sheep are raised on the individual holdings of the North Caucasus population.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

5.   Mutton-Wool-Milk Breeds
ANDI (Andiiskaya)

This breed is bred in northern Dagestan. The terrain is mountainous; the altitudes are high (2000-3500 m above sea level) and the air is very humid, with sharp temperature variations during the day. The Andi breed is well suited to the local conditions and year-long range husbandry; sheep of this breed are capable of covering long distances in the mountains.

Andi sheep have a broad chest, long and low-set body, and strong legs with tough hoofs. Both rams and ewes are horned. The tail consists of a large fatty cushion and shield-like appendage which covers the smooth surface of the fat cushion. The length of the fatty pad is 19 cm and the width is 18 cm. Sheep are relatively small in size: withers height is 53-60 cm. Live weight of ewes is 35-40 kg (max. 50 kg), and that of rams is 50-55 kg (max. 60-65 kg). Yearling rams weigh 32-48 kg, yearling ewes 26-29 kg. Andi sheep do not mature early but they have good meat traits and the lamb's meat is particularly valued. The yield of choice cuts (grade I and II) is the same as in sheep of mutton breeds. The carcass yield of meat and fat is 50-57%.

Andi sheep are black or white. The spring wool contains 40-41% of true wool fibres, the autumn wool 37-38%. The corresponding figures for guard hair are 59-60 and 62-63%. Kemp is not present. The staple length is 20-24 cm. The difference in fineness between guard hair and undercoat is not great; therefore the wool has a more or less uniform look. The wool of white sheep is used for the production of coarse cloths, and that of black sheep is used for felt boots, very light and watertight. Sheepskins are used for coats and hats.

The annual fleece weight of adult rams is 2.5-2.6 kg; it is 1.9-2.0 kg for ewes. Yearling rams and ewes produce 1.8-2.0 and 1.6-1.7 kg respectively. The clean wool yield is 58-67% in spring and up to 75-80% in autumn.

The lamb's fleece is of particular interest: some 70% of it does not hang in pointed locks but has a tippy staple. The average diameter of this wool is 28.5-30.6 , the length of guard hair is 13-22 cm and of true wool 6.0-9.8 cm. The clean wool yield is 82.8-85.7%.

Milk yield is satisfactory; ewes produce up to 70 kg per lactation (150 days), of which marketable milk amounts to 30 kg. Lambing rate is not high - 105-110 lambs per hundred ewes lambing.

The number of Andi sheep has increased slightly over the last fifteen years. In 1980 the total was 16 739 (96% purebreds) including 57 breeding rams, 271 other rams and 9336 ewes and yearlings.

At present the best flocks of Andi sheep are raised on Orjonikidze collective farm in the village of Andi (black sheep) and on Orjonikidze collective farm in the village of Argvani in the Dagestan ASSR.

In order to fix the type and preserve the commercial value of the sheep, breeding farms use pure breeding and inbreeding; new bloodlines are being created. In order to restore the stocks of Andi sheep in the designated areas (Botlikh, Kazbek, Tlyarota, Untsukul, Gumbet and other districts) of the Dagestan ASSR, ewes with wool of various types are being graded to purebred white or black Andi rams.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

BALBAS (Balbas)

The Balbas is the most valued coarsewooled breed raised in Transcaucasia. These sheep were brought to Armenia and Azerbaijan by nomadic Kurds who used to bring their flocks to local summer ranges. They have been selected for production of meat, fat and milk and adaptability to transhumance husbandry. The breed regionalization plan zones the breeding of Balbas sheep in some districts of Armenia and the Nakhichevan ASSR of Azerbaijan.

Sheep are kept on mountain pastures for 220-255 days and they spend 110-145 winter days in confinement. This pattern has always been the most rational one and will continue to be so in the future.

Numbers have increased considerably since 1964 and in 1980 stood at 355 331 (95% purebred) including 11 652 breeding rams, 3783 other rams and 211 660 ewes and yearlings. Out of the total population 227 500 are in Armenia and 127 800 in Azerbaijan.

Balbas sheep have a strong constitution and ample bone. They are rather large in size and are known for their weight, pronounced meat traits, satisfactory wool production and fertility.

Both rams and ewes are hornless; horned rams occur occasionally. The head is medium-sized, with a straight profile; rams are slightly Roman-nosed. Ears are long. The neck and the body are slightly elongated. The back is level and straight. The chest is deep, sufficiently wide and full. The rump is somewhat sloping. The udder is well developed. Sheep are well legged; the legs are strong, muscular, with tough hoofs. The tail is of medium size and consists of two pads, a larger lower and a smaller upper one; it hangs below the hocks. The colour is predominantly white, with dark spots on face, ears, and lower limbs. Balbas sheep in the Nakhichevan ASSR have shorter legs and a longer body than their Armenian relatives.

The Balbas are the largest among all local Transcaucasian breeds, not only in terms of their live weight but also in size. The average live weight of rams is 83.9 kg (range 65-105 kg). The average live weight of elite rams used at state breeding stations may reach 102 kg and that of Grade one rams is 75.6-79.2 kg. The average live weight of breeding ewes is 55-58 kg in autumn and 50-53 kg in spring. The tail fat weighs 10-12 kg in rams and 5-6 kg in ewes.

Newborn lambs weigh 3.5-4.3 kg; at weaning (4-4.5 months) males weigh 25.2 kg and females 23.3 kg. The average daily gain during suckling is 160 g for males and 148 g for females. The carcass yield is 50-62% and the yield of choice cuts is 83-85%. Meat yield is 80-84% of the carcass weight.

Balbas sheep are known for their good milk yield: the average per lactation is 100 kg (range 85-130 kg). The yield of marketable milk in the shorter lactation period of 80-90 days is 30-35 kg. Sheep in the Nakhichevan ASSR have a higher milk yield; they produce 68-80 kg per ewe.

The average fleece weight of purebred elite rams is 3.5 kg; it is 2.5 kg for first-grade rams, and 2.4 and 1.9 kg for elite and first-grade ewes respectively. The average fleece weight in ordinary flocks ranges from 1.2 to 2.2 kg per head. Breeding rams used at state breeding stations have higher fleece weights (3.6-4.1 kg). The fleece weight of Balbas sheep registered in Volume I of the State Flockbook was 3.2 for rams (range 2.6-5.0 kg) and 2.7 kg for ewes (range 2.2-4.5 kg).

The fleece hangs in pointed locks. The wool is white or light grey, with slight lustre. It is suitable for worsted spinning and is widely used in carpet making and valued by artisans. The fleece consists of true wool, intermediate fibres and guard hair. The staple length is 18.0 cm for ewes and 13.5 cm for yearlings; the true wool length is 12.1 cm and 9.8 cm respectively. Sheep raised in the Nakhichevan ASSR have shorter wool. Staple length in ewes is 13-17 cm, and the wool length is 7.5-8.5 cm. The fibre fineness in Armenian Balbas sheep is as follows: wool 27.0-32.9 μ intermediate fibres - 39.7-53.6 μ and short guard hair -53.5-109.4 μ. The corresponding figures for Azerbaijan Balbas are 21.1-23.7, 33.8-36.6, and 51.6-58.5 μ. These figures show that the undercoat in Balbas sheep is coarse and very close to intermediate fibres in fineness. The guard hair on the other hand is thin thus producing greater evenness in comparison with wool of other coarsewooled breeds.

The clean wool yield varies from 50 to 65%. It should be noted that the wool is dry because of the shortage of yolk. Sheep with evener and more uniform wool of better quality have yolk of a yellow colour. Sheep with uneven and non-uniform wool have kemps.

Lambing rate is 100-102 lambs dropped per hundred ewes lambing but in the best flocks the figure is 110-115.

As a highly productive breed, which is well adapted to local conditions, the Balbas is used for improving productivity, particularly of meat, in other coarsewooled Transcaucasian breeds.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

BOZAKH (Bozakh)

The breed was developed in the mountain regions of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Animals have a broad tail, consisting of two half-open lobes and a little appendage. They are fairly large: ewes weight 45-55 kg, rams about 65 kg. Lambs at birth weigh 3.3-3.5 kg and at weaning 20-22 kg. According to M.F. Ivanov, Bozakh sheep have the following measurements: height at withers 61.7 cm (range 53-71 cm), chest girth 86.6 cm (range 73-102 cm), chest depth 28.5 cm (range 24-33 cm). Rams and ewes are mainly polled. The facial profile is straight; the head is covered with short wool. Belly covering is good. Wool colour is chiefly dirty white or yellow-white; sheep with brown, light tan, grey or black colour are occasionally seen. In most cases head and legs are some shade of brown; occasionally they are grey or another colour.

The wool production in two shearings per year is 1.8-2.2 kg with a clean wool yield of 75-80%. The wool is lustrous. It contains 32.4% of true wool, 17.8% of intermediate fibres and 49.8% of guard hair. The average fibre length on the sides is as follows: true wool 8 cm, intermediate hair 10 cm, guard hair 12 cm, and short guard hair 5 cm; fibre diameter is 29.9 μ 38.7 μ 61.2 μ and 84.7 μ  respectively.

Milk production is satisfactory: 36-38 kg of marketable milk annually.

Today Bozakh sheep are bred on the individual holdings of the local population in Armenia and adjoining areas of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

DARVAZ (Darvazskaya)

Darvaz sheep belong to the mutton-wool fat-tailed group. Their exact origin is unknown. Judging by the tail shape and its variation they appear to have been formed by crossing fat-tailed and thin-tailed sheep with fat-rumped ones.

These sheep are found in the mountain and high mountain regions of the west Pamirs, Darvaz, Karateg and Zaravshan in Tajikistan. Pure Darvaz sheep are left only on individual holdings in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region and the high mountain Garm region. In other places they have been crossed with local fat-rumped Jaidara and Hissar sheep.

Darvaz sheep are raised in areas of arable farming with settled population. In summer they graze in mountains where pastures are at 3500 m above sea level; in winter they are confined in sheds with yards. In general, pastures are poor. The evolution of the Darvaz sheep took place under the hard conditions of broken mountainous country and severe climate. Winter lasts 4-6 months. Food resources were insufficient and methods of breeding and management were primitive. A type of small hardy sheep with low mutton-wool performance resulted.

Darvaz sheep have fine but strong bone. The head of most sheep is light with a Roman nose; the forehead is straight and narrow. The ears are of medium size, thin. Ewes are chiefly polled or with scurs; rams are horned. The neck is rather long, narrow, and straight. Withers are prominent and narrow. The back is straight and rather narrow; the rump is short, sloping and weakly developed. The sheep are mainly low-set, elongated and have deep chest and pendulous belly. Such shortcomings as narrowness behind the shoulders, sway back, sloping rump, sickle hocks and cow hocks are present. The tail varies in shape and size from short and fat or nearly thin, to long straight or bent with a fat deposit at the base.

Table 4.6 shows the measurements of Darvaz sheep.


Measurement Ewes Rams
Average Range Average Range
Height at withers 55.1 46-67 58.1 48-70

Height at rump





Body length





Chest girth





Chest depth





Chest width





Width at hips





Cannon bone girth 7.7 5.5-9.5 8.2 6-10

Darvaz sheep are small and late maturing; they reach maturity at the age of three years. The average live weight of mature ewes is 31 kg (range 18-43 kg); that of rams is 33 kg (range 20-49 kg). Lambs are small at birth, but strong. Ewe lambs average 2.4 kg (range 1.4-3.2 kg), ram lambs 2.8 kg (range 1.5-3.8 kg).

The slaughter yield of meat and fat is 41.3% on average; the best yield (43.3%) is obtained from wethers over two years old and the poorest (39.8%) from mature ewes. The fat yield from the fat tail ranges from 0.2 kg to 1.3 kg. The meat of Darvaz sheep is fine grained, but tough and lean.

Fleece of the Darvaz sheep hangs in pointed locks. Wool is long and lacks uniformity; it is rather soft and not dense. Most animals are black; sometimes they are black-and-white, brown or white; white sheep are rare (about 10%) and most of them have black markings on the head, around the eyes and on the legs. Spotted animals with markings over the whole body are also seen. Head, belly and legs are well covered with wool.

The average annual fleece weight in shearings is: ewes 0.85 kg, rams 0.9 kg (max. 1.6 kg); lambs at the age of 4-5 months shear 0.3-0.4 kg. Clean wool yield is 75-78%. Wool is 15-17 cm long; it is silky with wavy crimp and contains much true wool and thin, elastic guard hair. The diameter of guard hair in ewes is 51-71 μ, of intermediate hair 33-47 μ and of true wool 27-31 μ. The amount of guard hair varies from 10.7 to 20.3% and of true wool from 72.3 to 77.6%. Guard hair is often unmedullated.

Considerable seasonal changes in skin and wool are observed. During winter total skin thickness decreases by 28%, the dermis by 30%, the papillary layer by 24%, and the depth of sweat glands by 26.5%. Under the year-round pasture management the increase of length and density of wool is irregular during the year.

Prolificacy is quite satisfactory although twins are rare. The lamb crop is 108-110 lambs per ewe lambing. Milk yield is insufficient and twin lambs are often underdeveloped.

While being small in size and having a low productivity, Darvaz sheep are distinguished by their good adaptation to the mountains. They are good walkers over the steep mountain slopes, with ravines and boulders; they withstand sharp changes of air temperature and atmospheric pressure; they are hardy while moving and endure cold winds and mountain snow storms. Sheep successfully compete with the local goats in utilizing the mountain farming area.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

IMERETIAN (Imeretinskie ovtsi)

These sheep, of the mutton-wool-milk type are bred in the Ajar and Abkhazian ASSRs in western Georgia. They are considered to be the smallest among all the Caucasian mountain breeds.

According to the breed census on 1 January 1980 there were 834 head of Imeretian sheep, including 42 breeding rams and 625 ewes and yearlings. In 1964, 1970 and 1974 these sheep were not listed.

Imeretian sheep are small in size, their withers height is 48-55 cm. The head is small, with straight profile in ewes and slightly Roman-nosed in rams. The ears are small. Rams have well-developed horns; ewes are also horned. The forehead is covered with curly wool down to the nose. The neck is short; the body is small, on high strong legs; the rump is somewhat sloping. Fleece cover is satisfactory. The tail and the body are covered by the same wool. The tail reaches the hocks; it is straight, broad in the upper part and narrower in the lower section, gradually forming a thin tip.

The live weight of rams is 22-35 kg and that of ewes is 20-28 kg. The carcass weight is 14-20 and 10-16 kg respectively. The meat is tasty.

The wool is white, soft, sufficiently dense, and with a silky lustre. Staple length is 12-15 cm. The true wool and guard hair content each range from 42 to 58%. The diameter of true wool is 17-26m and that of guard hair is 55-65 m. The wool is valued by the local population and is used for cloth and other artisan items.

Prolificacy is good (140-160 lambs per ewe lambing) but milk yield is low. Sheep have a valuable trait: they come in heat throughout the year.

Imeretian sheep often have transferrin C (0.298) and A (0.213). Type E (0.118) is rare. Yearling ewes with Transferrin AC usually have a significantly higher live weight and fleece weight. Type B haemoglobin is the most common.

In order to preserve this valuable genetic resource a state breeding centre was established in 1977 in the Terzhol distict. Here semen is collected for long-term deep-frozen storage.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

KARABAKH (Karabakh)

Karabakh sheep have been raised for a long time in most parts of the Azerbaijan SSR and the Nagorny Karabakh Autonomous Region. They are a coarsewooled breed of the mutton-wool-milk type.

Karabakh ewes are hornless; rams can be horned or hornless. The head is covered by short wool. Ear length varies greatly; there are sheep with long or short ears or none. These sheep are small in size; the live weight of ewes is 39-43 kg and that of rams is 50-58 kg. Average withers height is 64.6 cm (range 53-74 cm), chest girth 63.1 cm (range 55-70 cm), chest depth 29 cm (range 18-34 cm).

The colour is usually dirty white or light brown, occasionally black or white. The tail is S-shaped; fat is deposited along its length except for the last two sections.

Ewes are shorn twice a year, giving a total of 1.5-2.0 kg of wool. Rams are shorn once and produce up to 2.5 kg per head, with clean wool yield of 75-76%. Lustre is poor. The wool contains 50.8% of true wool, 10.1% of intermediate fibres, 23.7% of guard hair, and 15.4% of short guard hair. The length of wool fibres is 7 cm, of intermediate fibres 8 cm, of guard hair 8 cm, and of short guard hair 3 cm. Fibre diameter is 33.8, 47.1, 66.6 and 156 μ respectively.

Milk yield is satisfactory; ewes produce 35-40 kg of marketable milk. Milk is used for the production of butter and fresh cheese called pendir.

In spite of their low clip of rather coarse wool, Karabakh sheep are kept because of their hardiness and ability to subsist on rough forage, to gain weight on grazing and to traverse long distances. They are on pasture throughout the year. In summer they graze in the lowlands and in winter in the highlands, on alpine pastures. To get from winter quarters to summer ranges sheep cover 200-250 km and in some cases even up to 300 km. Sheep of the Karabakh breed are raised only on private plots in Azerbaijan and in small numbers in adjacent areas of Armenia.

The best variety of the Karabakh is the Karadolakh which is raised on a large scale on collective farms in Agzhabedinski, Agdam, Imishli and other districts of Azerbaijan. Karadolakh sheep differ from the rest of the population by a relatively larger size, better conformation and more fat in the tail. The Azerbaijan Livestock Institute has begun work to revive this variety. At present the experimental farm of the Institute has 400 head of Karadolakh sheep with a live weight of 55-60 kg. They produce 115-120 lambs per hundred ewes and give 45-50 kg of marketable milk. The milk contains 7-8% of fat. Increase of the stock up to 5000 head is planned.

The average live weight of Karadolakh ewes in autumn is 66 kg (range 49-89 kg) and that of rams is 81.8 (range 63-101 kg). Yearling ewes in spring weigh 40-42 kg. The weight gain in ewes during the four summer months is 20% of the spring live weight. The corresponding figure in rams is 15%. Fat deposits in the tail of fattened wethers amount to 12 kg.

Karadolakh sheep have a somewhat higher fleece weight. Ewes shorn twice a year produce 2.5-2.9 kg. The clean wool yield is 71-76%. The fleece contains up to 12% of kemp. True wool accounts for 54-56%, guard hair 27% or more, and intermediate fibres 5-6%.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

KARACHAI (Karachaevskaya)

According to the breed regionalization plan, the Karachai breed is raised in the Karachaevo-Cherkess Autonomous Region, Kabardino-Balkar ASSR and North Ossetian ASSR. Therefore, sheep of this breed are sometimes called Kabarda or Ossetian.

The area where sheep of this breed are raised is characterized by a very rough terrain, high humidity and sharp temperature fluctuations during the day. In these conditions the Karachai effectively subsist on alpine and sub-alpine ranges at altitudes up to 3500 m above sea level.

Sheep have a sound frame, deep chest, and well-developed legs with tough hoofs; therefore they can easily traverse the rough mountain terrain. The tail is some 44 cm long in rams and some 40 cm in ewes; it is broad, rounded or V-shaped at the root and S-shaped at the tip. When grazing, sheep carry 4-5 kg of fat in the tail. The head is small, narrow and Roman-nosed. Both rams and ewes are horned.

Sheep are predominantly black (up to 80%); grey, red and white are also seen. Most black sheep have a white spot on the poll and a white tail tip.

The wool is coarse and hangs in pointed locks. According to Mukhin (1965), the wool contains 66.6% of true wool fibres, 11.9% of intermediate fibres and 21.5% of guard hair. It is of better quality than the wool of other coarsewooled Caucasian breeds. Ivanov wrote in this respect: "Although the wool of Karachai sheep is not fine, it does not contain the very coarse hairs which are often present in the fleece of other Caucasian breeds. The ability to form thick felt makes the wool of Karachai sheep suitable for making such items as felt boots and its clear black colour in young sheep renders the items made from it very beautiful in appearance." Karachai sheep produce light and durable sheepskins with thick skin.

There are three types of Karachai sheep: a triple-purpose type producing mutton, wool and milk, and types tending either toward wool or towards mutton production. The average annual fleece weight is 1.6-3.1 kg in rams and 0.8-2.6 kg in ewes.

Karachai sheep are small in size. The average live weight of rams is 60 kg (max. 90 kg) and that of ewes is 45 kg (max. 70 kg). Sheep mature sufficiently early; by the age of three months lambs reach 38-40% of the live weight of adults (Table 4.7). When fed and managed properly, the 6-month-old rams weigh more than 50 kg. The carcass yield after grazing is 47-56%. Most fat is deposited on the loin and rump. The mutton and fat of Karachai sheep are very palatable.


  Live weight (kg) Percentage of live weight of adult
Age Average Range
Newborn 3.6 2.9- 4.5 7.9

3 months




6 months




9 months




12 months




18 months




4.5-5.5 years 45.0 36.0-55.0 100.0

Milk yield is relatively high - 56-85 kg of marketable milk per lactation. The milk contains 7.2-9.6% of fat. Lambing rate is low - 105-110 lambs dropped per hundred ewes lambing.

The number of Karachai sheep has declined somewhat over the last fifteen years. In 1980 the total was 55 028 (94% purebreds) including 943 breeding rams, 646 other rams and 42 198 ewes and yearlings.

The best flocks of Karachai sheep are on Eltarkach, Osman Kasaev, Teberdinski, Labinski state farms in the Karachaevo-Cherkess Autonomous Region.

By crossing ewes with finewool rams a new highly-productive semifinewooled breed, the Mountain Corriedale has been developed. This breed has inherited the good adaptability of local sheep to the conditions of transhumance and excessive humidity.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

LEZGIAN (Lezginskaya)

Lezgian sheep belong to the group of Caucasian fat-tailed breeds. They originated in the Dagestan ASSR and were described for the first time in 1912 when they were exhibited at the All-Russia Sheepbreeding Exhibition.

Lezgian sheep are also raised in some districts of Azerbaijan on the border with Dagestan. This area is characterized by a mountainous relief and a great variety of climatic, soil and feeding conditions. Sheep are usually kept on a transhumance system in order to utilize the grasslands of both mountain and plains.

The number of sheep of this breed has increased over 20 times since 1964. The total in 1980 was 237 774 (32% purebreds) including 5344 breeding rams, 14 501 other rams and 134 809 ewes and yearlings.

Lezgian sheep have a strong constitution and are good walkers. Their conformation is typical of mountain sheep. They have an ample and fine bone, a somewhat elongated body on relatively short legs with tough hoofs. The tail is fat, of medium size, S-shaped. The tip of the tail is lean, free of fat deposits and hanging down. Animals are usually horned.

In general, Lezgian sheep are small in size. The average withers height of ewes is 57.9 cm, rump height 59.1 cm, oblique body length 58.8 cm and chest girth 71.9 cm. Live weight is 25-55 kg in ewes and 35-65 in rams.

Some 75% of Lezgian sheep are white, often with coloured spots on the head, neck, and feet. Some 16% are black or black-brown and the rest (8-10%) are tan of various shades, grey or pied. The fleece cover is satisfactory and only 10-12% of sheep are poorly covered. The forelegs are usually covered with wool down to the knees and the hindlegs down to the hocks.

Sheep are shorn twice a year - in April and August-September. The spring fleece weight in ewes is 1.0-1.6 kg and the autumn one 0.4-0.8 kg. Rams produce 1.4-2.2 kg in spring and 0.6-1.0 in autumn. Lambs over one year of age clip 0.8-1.0 kg in spring and 0.4-0.9 kg in autumn.

The wool hangs in pointed locks; its quality is one of the best among coarsewooled breeds. Staple length is 14 cm (range 7-17.5 cm). True wool accounts for 60.5% (range 14.3-82.6%), guard hair for 1.7% (range 0.6-12.2%), and intermediate fibres for 37.8% (range 15.7-67.7%). The true wool length is 4 cm and the diameter is 16.0-29.5 μ, the length of intermediate fibres is 14.9 cm, and the diameter 30.0-57.8 μ. The diameter of guard hair ranges from 65.4 to 103.6 μ.

Among local coarsewooled breeds the Lezgian is distinguished by high milk yield - 65-80 litres per lactation, with marketable milk amounting to 35-40 litres. Ewes are usually milked from April to September.

The best flocks of the Lezgian breed are raised in southern Dagestan. Further breeding and selection are aimed at increasing live weight and wool clip, and improving the quality of the carpet wool without any reduction in adaptation to local natural conditions.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

SHIRVAN (Shirvanskaya)

The sheep of this breed are a mutton-wool-milk type of ancient origin and belong to the group of local (Caucasian) coarsewooled fat-tailed sheep. They are bred chiefly in the east and central regions of Azerbaijan on the left bank of the river Kura mainly in the Mugan, Salyany and Shirvan steppes and on the Apsheron peninsula.

Shirvan sheep are very similar to the Karabakh in conformation. As shown by their measurements (see Table 4.8) and live weight they are a large breed.


Measurement Ewes Rams
Average Range Average Range
Height at withers 64.4 52-75 69.8 59-79

Chest depth





Body length





Chest girth





Cannon bone girth





Head length





Tail girth 57.2 30-91 70.3 50-95

Shirvan sheep are smaller than the Karabakh and they have a somewhat flatter and shorter body. The average live weight of ewes is 43 kg (range 33-59 kg) and of rams 50.7 kg (range 46-55 kg). On grazing, animals make high live-weight gains. The slaughter yield is 47%.

Fleece of Shirvans hangs in pointed locks and has a lot of brittle hair (kemp). The fleece weight (in 2 shearings) of ewes is 1.4-1.7 kg and that of rams 1.9-2.45 kg. Yearling sheep give 1.1-1.5 kg of wool, and lambs 0.3-0.4 kg.

Most sheep (73%) are white with a red or greyish shade; the rest are black, black-brown, or light brown.

Shirvan wool is coarse and lacks uniformity. It contains 38% of true wool, 18-20% of intermediate hair, 20-22% of guard hair and not less than 20% of dead hair (kemp) and sometimes 30%. The staple length varies from 7.2 to 12.3 cm. The average diameter of true wool is 25.6 μ, of intermediate hair 38.5-46.8 μ and of guard hair 118-132 μ.

The lambing rate is 105-110 lambs per 100 ewes lambing. The live weight of newborn lambs is 2-4 kg. Ewes yield 40-60 litres of milk per lactation, the yield depending on the type of the sheep.

Shirvan sheep are valued for their good adaptation to the hot climate of the Mugan-Salyany areas of Azerbaijan. During long droughts as well as in cold snowy periods in winter sheep get supplementary hay and concentrate feeding.

Most of these sheep (up to 80%) are being crossed with the Azerbaijan Mountain Merino to improve mutton, wool and milk performance. As a result purebred Shirvan sheep remain only on individual holdings in Apsheron, Lenkoran, Masalli and Sumgait regions of Azerbaijan.

Animal genetic resources of the USSR

TUSHIN (Tushinskaya)

This coarsewooled breed of the mutton-wool-milk type was bred in Georgia in the 13th-14th centuries under conditions of year-long range husbandry. The breed derives its name from the Tushins, the people of Tushetia, the mountain district where they were developed. According to the breed regionalization plan, the Tushin breed is raised mainly in the Georgian SSR and partly in the Armenian SSR and in some districts of North Caucasus.

The Tushin sheep exhibit sturdiness and good adaptation to transhumance husbandry. When moving from winter quarters to summer ranges they can easily cover more than 500 km.

Tushin sheep have a strong constitution, a harmonious and compact conformation, ample bone, and tough hoofs. The brisket is full and round and the ribs are well sprung. The head has a straight profile. Rams have horns and ewes have rudimentary horns. The animals are relatively small in size. Withers height is 58-60 cm, chest girth 83-85 cm, and depth of chest 29-30 cm. The average live weight of rams is 58-60 kg and that of ewes is 40-42 kg. Table 4.9 shows the live weight at different ages under transhumance conditions.


 Age Ewes Rams
Newborn 2.0- 3.6 2.2- 3.8
Weaners 17.8-21.8 18.8-22.3
6 months 21.2-26.4 21.2-29.1
18 months 32.9-45.7 40.4-52.8
30 months and over 34.6-47.7 45.6-63.2

Tushin sheep are fat-tailed (according to Bogolyubski they belong to the semi-fat-rumped breeds). Fat is deposited on the rump, in the thighs, and in the tail in the form of a fatty pad which is internally divided into two by a groove. The tail is of medium size or short; its tip is thin and free of fat. According to the shape and size of fat deposits, two types of sheep are distinguished: dumeuli and kentuli. The former have larger and somewhat pendent tails, which sometimes reach the hocks; the latter have raised tails at the height of the rump.

The meat of Tushin sheep is known for its palatability and a nice aroma free of the specific acrid smell of mutton. The carcass yield of meat and fat is 42.7-47.7% in wethers and 42.6-44.4% in ewes. With good feeding the carcass yield of fat rams at the age of 9-12 or 18 months is 50-56% of the live weight; the carcass weight ranges from 19 to 23 kg. In ewes the corresponding figures are 50-57% and 20.2-28.7 kg.

Tushin sheep produce coarse wool of better quality than nearly all other coarsewooled mountain breeds. The wool is white and lustrous. The first-grade wool contains 74% of true wool and intermediate fibres and 26% of guard hair. The diameter of true wool is 56 μ. The second and third-grade wool contains less true wool (35-44% respectively), and more guard hair (55-65% respectively). The diameter of true wool fibres is 26 and 27 μ respectively and that of guard hair is up to 70 μ. The locks are very wavy, 12-16 cm long. The wool of Tushin sheep is particularly valued in carpet making; it is also used for the production of worsted and cloth fabrics, and felt. The annual fleece weight for rams is 3.1-3.8 kg and that for ewes is 2.4-3.0 kg.

Milk yield is not high, 65-70 kg per lactation, of which marketable milk constitutes 10-15 kg. Lambing rate is rather low - 105-115 lambs dropped per hundred ewes lambing.

The number of Tushin sheep has increased three and half times over the last fifteen years. In 1980 the total was 928 136 (76% purebred) including 37 433 breeding rams, 19 109 other rams and 561 578 ewes and yearlings.

For improvement in breeding flocks purebreeding is used. Thus preservation of the breeding type is ensured and hereditary stability of typical traits is increased. In all districts designated for raising of Tushin sheep grading up is widely used, which contributes to further growth of the Tushin population.

(In Russian)

Golodnov A.V. Sheep breeding in Kazakhstan. Moscow. 1977.

Ivanov M.F. Complete works. Vol. 4. Moscow. 1964.

Kovnerev I.P. et al. The organization and technique of Romanov sheep breeding. Kolos Publishers"] 1967.

Litovchenko G.R. and Esaulov P.A. (Eds.) Sheep breeding. Vol. 2. Kolos, Moscow. 1972

Semyonov S.I. Sheep breeding. Moscow. 1983.

Vasilyev N.A. and Tselyutin V.K. Sheep breeding. Moscow. 1979.

Yegorov E. et al. Polymorphism of haemoglobin, transferrin, pre-albumin and post-albumin, in fat-rumped and finewool sheep of Tajikistan. Publications of the Tajik Livestock Research Institute, Dushanbe, No. 10. 1977.

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