THE HISTORY OF MERINO SHEEP
South Africa was the first country outside Europe which owned Merinos
This history stretched back as far as 1789, when the Dutch Government donated two Spanish Merino Rams and four Spanish Merino Ewes to Col. Jacob Gordon, the military commander at the Cape at that time, on an experimental basis. These sheep were initially the property of the King of Spain, who had the sole right to export Merinos. However, the King sent a number of sheep from his famous Escoriale Merino Stud as a gift to the House of Orange. The sheep could not adjust to the high rainfall in the Netherlands and were therefore sent to Col. Gordon. He immediately realised the possibilities of this breed and decided to keep it pure, grazing them on the Company farm Groenkloof, 55km from Cape Town. By 1830 wool sheep farming in the Western and South Western Cape was already fairly well established. The next expansion was eastwards. The 1820 Settlers played an important role in this extension and development of Merino flocks. In 1834 the Great Trek started and the Voortrekkers took their sheep flocks northwards with them. Within a few years the Merino had spread to all parts of the country. From 1891 considerable numbers of Merinos of the American Vermont type were brought to South Africa. However, it was found that the Australian Merino, the Wanganella and Peppin type, was best suited to improve our flocks, and large numbers of this breed were imported. With all the different types forming the basis, the South African breeders have succeeded in developing typical Merino on a par with the best of the world. These Merinos, which have developed in the course of more than 200 years, form the backbone of South Africa’s Agricultural Industry.
THE MERINO IN SOUTH AFRICA
You will find Merino sheep in almost every district of South Africa. Merinos, in great numbers will be found in the drier Northern Cape province, on the fertile lands of the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape and millions of Merino sheep run on the Karooveld and Grassveld of the Eastern Cape and Free State. Well-known Merino Breeders with large top quality flocks are also found in the East Griqualand of Kwazulu Natal and the most parts of Mpumalanga.
SINCE 1937. A member of the World Federation of Merino Breeders. Merino SA serves as the mutual forum for registered and commercial Merino Breeders and acts as the planner and mouthpiece of all Merino affairs in South Africa.