Thursday, April 11, 2013

Baby Lambs!

From Julie H., historical interpreter:

Happy Spring, everyone! Even though Mother Nature seems to think it's summer (90 degrees yesterday!), we are gearing up for our spring celebrations.

Many of you have been waiting for this announcement: We have baby lambs! They are all a week to two weeks old, and were born on our American farms. I wish I could've gotten photos up sooner, but between the unexpected snow storms, and our busy season with school groups, there's barely been time! Luckily, our facebook team posted the arrival of the baby lambs with an adorable photograph, and we also have some photos on our flickr page, taken by Jack Cameron. Here's two of them:

 These sheep were quite a novelty in the early 19th Century!
The Tunis breed of sheep, also known historically as Barbary Sheep, come from Tunisia in North Africa. They came to America at the end of the 18th C as a gift from the ruler of Tunisia, and were given to a judge in Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson got the breed shortly after, and became a strong advocate for its use. It gives both a good meat, and a sturdy wool.
People in Jefferson's time were used to English breeds of sheep, which were primarily white, black, or grey. So a brown-faced sheep was quite exciting! And the most interesting thing about Tunis sheep, as you can see, is that they are born entirely brown, and slowly turn white after a few months. This made them even more desirable and popular, and the breed spread across the East Coast.

While none of my own photos of them on the farms turned out, I did manage to get these two little guys hobbling around our break room. Their mother died shortly after giving birth, so we've been bottle feeding them. I believe this is Cathy and Chrissy, named after the wives of the 1820s and 1850s farm families.

Check back again soon, because our fluffy white English lambs should be appearing any day now!


  1. What precious little lambs! I am a spinner so I am curious about their wool. What is it like to spin?

    1. Hi Kimberly! Their wool is not as long as many English breeds. The curls are so tiny that it appears almost more crimped than actually curls. It gives a coarser wool than our Cotswold sheep at the museum, and historically produced a cheaper wool often worn by working class folks and slaves (as opposed to the expensive English wools from overseas). But it spins fairly well! If you get a chance to come to the FCM during our Wool Days event (starting tomorrow), there will be plenty wool around if you'd like to try to spin some!