I began raising Navajo-Churro sheep for several reasons, some of them practical, and some from my heart. Promoting diversity of domestic animal breeds is not the first thing most stockmen consider when starting or continuing their operations. High yield, both in numbers and in carcass weight (mostly if you are raising meat animals) is often a huge consideration. For wool breeds, the desirability of the wool and the market for it, often drives the farmer/rancher’s thinking.
I chose Navajo-Churro sheep to begin my farm because I could not resist the history of the breed.
Being a closet anthropologist and historian, the long and fascinating story of Churro sheep was irresistible.
But I also very much wanted to help preserve a breed whose numbers had dwindled so drastically over the centuries.
Of course it helped that the wool was marketable to rug weavers and knitters of outer garments, and the inner, soft coat was suitable for many uses.
The natural color range of the wool is attractive to many fiber artists.
The Churros are easily kept on pasture and/or hay, and don’t require the grain and supplements that many commercial sheep do.
They lamb with no difficulty, and protect and feed their babies admirably. And — they sure are beautiful to look at as they run across my pasture in the spring, their lambs jumping with the joy of life.
In all the years I have been raising Churros, I never once thought about changing to another breed.
A sheep entwined in Navajo culture and beliefs, the Navajo-Churro epitomizes a way of life that developed with the introduction of the Churro to the Navajo people in the 17th century and has since been almost exterminated.
Navajo-Churros are a hardy breed, resistant to many sheep diseases.
With their two layers of coat, a long top coat with a soft, shorter undercoat they can withstand extreme climates.
Navajo-Churro rams are very distinctive, some with four or six fully developed horns.
Twins and triplets are not uncommon and the ewes are very protective of their young lambs.
Navajo-Churro fleece is a distinctive long-haired pelt with two lengths of fibers from the long topcoat and shorter undercoat, which is highly valued for many uses.
When spun, the wool, which is more like hair, is extremely strong and durable, making it excellent for Navajo rugs and is highly prized by spinners.
Navajo-Churro wool comes in natural colors, including black, grey, brown, beige and white.
Weavings from their wool are not only beautiful, high quality and long-lasting, but also preserve the traditional Navajo ties between sheep, wool, land and weaving.
The texture, quality and durability of weavings created from Navajo-Churro wool are highly regarded by informed collectors who admire their silky luster and wide variety of natural colors.
Navajo Churro sheep are listed on The Livestock Conservancy Priority List, classified as Threatened, i.e. “Fewer than 1,000 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 5,000.