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This article was taken from the Rare Breeds Journal in 2000.  Almost 15 years later,  The breed has continued to develop with the help of the Registry and breeders that participate to ensure the future of this incredible breed of sheep.

Since this time,  the Miniature Harlequin Sheep has received National Coverage via Magazines, TV, Newspapers and more.    Articles will continue to be posted over time.

Sterling, Kathleene. "The Harlequin Sheep." Rare Breeds Journal XIV (2000): 14.

By: Kathleene Sterling,
Black Sheep Farm,
Berryville Virginia
(Breed Founder)
The Harlequin sheep is a dual purpose meat and wool sheep that is the result of an intensive breeding program spanning over 25 years. At this time, it must be considered a color pattern, rather than a true breed, because breeding two Harlequins does not always result in a Harlequin lamb. I used many breeds of sheep originally buying purebred rams and breeding to the ewes that had the color, fleece, and conformation characteristics that I liked. I used Karakul, Tunis, Corriedale, Lincoln, Border Leicester, Romney, Montadale, Finn-Rambouillet, Dorset, and Southdown rams. About 10 years ago, I decided to close the flock and not bring in any more outside blood for several years. I have been inbreeding extensively since that time. My goal was to was to produce a dual-purpose sheep with the size and general conformation of the Southdown and with a fleece that is varied in staple length/texture and color. Most of the spotted sheep in the Herd have two different lengths of staple with the white wool often longer than the dark wool. They may have one or both eyes blue or partially blue and they are always polled. There is no Jacob breeding in the Harlequin sheep. 

Three distinct color patterns have developed over the years: one has a dark head, with a few dark body spots; one has patches of color all over the body; and the third type tends to be mostly dark, with a white rump and other white markings. Another type may be any of the above patterns, but quickly starts to grey out and eventually the pattern s lost. 
The usual colors are black, brown, or grey with white. Occasionally, a red and white lamb may be born, going back to the Tunis, but that color will fade out. Most of the Sheep will, overtime, develop black freckling on the skin and black wool grows from those areas. This freckling is very noticeable when they are newly shorn. The wool is usually of a medium length staple, although I have tried to keep a line of Lincoln cross ewes in the herd to produce a longer staple…these ewes are only producing Harlequin lambs now after 3 or 4 generations out from the Lincoln rams. 

At this time, the herd, which still consists of about half solid colored ewes, is producing about 2/3 Harlequin lambs. I will continue to in-breed and save Harlequin ewes to breed back until they breed true all of the time. 

I have spinners who will spin the raw fleece just as it comes off the sheep… resulting in a wildly patterned and textured final product. Others carefully separate the different colors in the fleece before using it, and others have it processed together, which results in a very attractive heather grey wool. 

In addition, because of the extensive inbreeding, I am developing a second line of mini-Harlequins… very small, colorful sheep similar to Babydoll Southdowns in shape, but with the patterned fleece. 

Sterling, Kathleene. "The Harlequin Sheep." Rare Breeds Journal XIV (2000): 14.

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Miniature Harlequin Sheep Registry
PO Box 2237
Cleveland, GA 30528

Phone: 706.348.7279    Email: registry@minilivestock.com