Most wool sold to handspinners is merino. Most of the commercial wool in quality yarn is merino. Merino is King. Merino wool is soft and long, and the sheep has been bred to be very, very white (so its takes dye well). But of course it took humans a while to get such a useful breed of sheep.
Merino sheep come from Spain. The breed dates back to at least the 13th century and is probably the result of cross between something African and something local. Merino sheep were specifically bred for their wool and Spanish nobles made lots of money off them. But the 13th century is only 900 years ago and we humans have been keeping sheep for 10,000 to 11,000 years. Over all that time there have been lots of sheep breeds developed.
Hope that was entertaining and not too educational. Who needs all that education anyway? So let’s finsih off with some pictures of cute sheep.
Btw, there is no such thing as native sheep, not anymore. There are feral sheep and “landrace” sheep but the original ancestral sheep is gone. Its been breed and cultivated into a thousand new kinds of sheep. I think all of that cross breeding and genetic engineering of sheep has bred out all their brains. In my (limited) experience with herding and taking care of sheep I have found them to be very, very dumb. It seems to me that sheep are born. Two minutes later, they take their first steps. Two minutes after that they have found a way to kill themselves. The human in charge of them has to work non-stop to keep them out of danger and from getting themselves dead. So while the ancestral sheep probably had pretty cruddy fleeces, I betcha they were smart enough to survive without us. Those domesticated sheep certainly can’t.
Like listening to me ramble? There is plenty more where that came from! Check out the rest of my Spinning in Cowgirl Boots series.