The Rambouillet sheep gets its name from the Rambouillet Estate in Northern France. In 1786, King Louis XVI imported around 360 Spanish Merinos after the relaxation of the export of sheep. Through modifications of breeding, the distinct Rambouillet sheep began to appear through crossing with English Long wool breeds.
In 1840, These sheep were first imported to the US, with strong numbers settling in the west. In this harsh climate, the sheep did well because of their hardiness and ability to thrive on sparse vegetation. They also were less susceptible to predators because they flock closely, especially at night. The fiber they produce also adapted to this harsh climate, with more disorganized crimp and more length, allowing the fiber to trap more air and produce more warmth. This added strength bumps it slightly out of the super fine range, but makes up for it with added durability.
The Rambouillet that have been introduced to the Navajo are very specific to the needs of that community. They are breeding a nicely bodied meat merino, to create a sheep that can be used dual purpose. The Ram rental program at the Dine College sources the finest Rams, healthy, with good fiber and good conformation. They then arrange for these rams to be rented out for the breeding season to various farms to improve the quality of the coming years lambs. This program helps the Navajo families improve the prices received for their wool, and increases their meat production as well. Peace Fleece is working specifically with several families that are part of the Ram Rental program, and will be documenting the year to year statistics in terms of fiber quality and production, and general improvement to the lives of the Navajo families involved.