The Early History Of Sheep And Wool

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The Early History Of Sheep And Wool Essay, Research Paper The Early History of Sheep and Wool The history of the sheep industry began in Central Asia about 10,000 years ago. It’s the nature of sheep to flock together. Early man could take sheep in his travels, because they are efficient grazers, and able to survive on sparse vegetation. Man had discovered the value of the sheep as a two product animal even then. It could provide two of life’s essentials, meat and milk for food, and hides for clothing and shelter. The earliest sheep producers used the fleece as a kind of tunic. It wasn’t until 3500 BC that man learned to spin wool. (Channing 110) Sheep helped make the spread of civilization possible. Once man had discovered the warmth and usefulness of wool clothing,

they could travel and live in comfort beyond the plains of Mesopotamia, where the average temperature was 70 degrees. (Bishop 12) History has many references to sheep. In Genesis, it is recorded that Able kept sheep, Exodus states “all of the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue and of purple and of scarlet.” The earliest of Egyptian history speaks of wool, pieces of wool and clothing have been found in tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. (Channing 117) Sheep and wool spread to Europe between 3000 BC and 1000 BC through ancient Greece. During the next 1,000 years Greeks, Romans and Persians contributed to improvements in sheep breeds. The Romans were also responsible for the spread of sheep in North Africa and

Europe. The Romans also established a woolen manufactory in Winchester New England, as early as 50 AD (Channing 123) The Merino, the sheep producing the smallest diameter wool fiber is said to have descended from a strain developed during the reign of Claudious, 41 to 54 AD Later, during the dark ages, the Merino breed deteriorated. It was later revived by the Saracens when they conquered Spain in the Eighth Century. A wool export trade was established with North Africa, Greece, Egypt, Byzantium, and Constantinopal. When the Saracens were finally removed, Spain lost it’s world trade. Thousands of weavers and others in the manufacture of wool were banished. (Channing 161) The Merino sheep remained in Spain and were a rich source of income for the country. Income from the wool

trade helped to finance the voyages of Columbus and the Conquistadors, guarding her sense of wealth closely, refusing to export a single ewe under penalty of death until 1786. That year Louis XVI imported 386 ewes from Spain and crossed them with the sheep on his estate at Rambouillet, developing the Rambouillet breed, which is considered one of the most desirable breeds in the world. (Channing 162) Wool weaving was one of the first basic communal industries established as Europe emerged from the dark ages. During the 12th century there was a huge growth of weaving in Florence, Genoa, and Venice. The growth of weaving was encouraged by the defeat of Greece by Roger II, the Norman who had also conquered Sicily. After his triumph, Roger took 100 Greek weavers and sent them to

Palermo as slave labor. In Italy their work was immediately copied by Italian weavers. (Regensteiner 27) Sheep were found in England before written history, having been brought there, legend says, by the Phoenicians. Preservation of sheep in early England is credited largely to the Cistercian monks whose monasteries scattered the country. It was the Cistercians who ransomed Richard I with wool, after he was captured by John, Duke of Austria, when returning from the crusades. From these sheep of England come the meat producing or “mutton” types. (Channing 113) In 1337 King Edward III forbade the continued exportation of wool from England. He decreed importation of woven goods and the wearing of foreign made wool garments would not be permitted. At the same time, he invited