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Black and Colored Sheep by Susan Schoenian sheep101.info White Wool Most modern domesticated sheep grow white wool. This is because white wool is more desirable in the commercial market because it can be dyed any color. However, sheep with white wool may have different color faces and legs. Crossbred Ewes in Virginia Colored Sheep On the other hand, hand spinners, weavers, and other wool craftsmen often prefer to work with "natural colored" wool. Wool is produced in many beautiful colors: black, gray, silver, moorit, brown, and red. Naturally Colored Sheep It's All In the Genes It is not uncommon for black or colored lambs to appear in a white flock. However, in order for this to happen, both of the lamb's parents must be carrying a gene for color. Katahdin Ewe and Lambs Fleece Inheritance The inheritance of fleece or coat color in sheep is quite complicated. Different genes control what color the fleece will be, what pattern it will be, and whether the fleece will be spotted. Black and White Merinos Changing Colors The lambs of some breeds are born black and their fleeces will change to white or gray as they get older. Shropshire lambs Spotted Fleeces One of the most uniquely colored breeds is the Jacob. The Jacob's fleece is described as white with black spots. The white wool grows out of white skin, while the black wool grows out of black skin. The Jacob's spotted fleece is referenced in the Bible. Prior to the 20th century, Jacob sheep were referred to as "piebald" sheep. Jacob Ewe Photo courtesy of American Jacob Sheep Registry Get Your Markers In In the "Old West" a few colored sheep roamed the ranges. These animals were used as "markers", one for every 100 range sheep. The old timers counted the sheep and said, "once your markers are in, your flock is in". Black Katahdin Ewe New Words Gene - the fundamental physical and functional unit of heredity. Inheritance - attributes acquired via biological heredity from the parents. Moorit - brown; comes from the Icelandic word "moorut" meaning "as red as the moors." Piebald - English term for body color of white with black patches. http://www.sheep101.info/black.html © Copyright 2005.