Painted Desert Sheep-- the original Texas sheep
Texas is a national leader in the sheep industry. Let’s take a look at one of the only breeds to ever originate in Texas-- the painted desert sheep.
Michael Brent is quite popular on his farm in Yantis, Texas. His passel of painted desert sheep come running as soon as he hits the fence line-- with his feed bucket of course.
He really did not set out to become a sheep breeder.
“I really wasn’t even interested in sheep, but I bought this place and I bought an old tractor and an old shredder... I really didn’t plan on buying an old tractor and shredder, and the old tractor would break down and I’d get it fixed, and the shredder would break down and I’d get it fixed. And by the time I’d get them back together and fixed, I just got fed up with it so I fenced it in and bought some sheep,” Brent explains.
He thought he had bought some American black belly sheep, but when the babies hit the ground, he discovered something else. So, he reached out to the person who sold him his original herd.
“They said, ‘Oh, our painted desert ram must have got loose and bred those sheep,’” he states. “So, that got me into checking out what painted desert sheep was, and I liked them so much I decided to get rid of all my American black bellies and start raising painted desert sheep and to mow my pasture.”
Not only does his pasture get mowed but its inhabitants are quite beautiful to look at.
The characteristic that sets these sheep apart from other breeds is their colorful markings. Patterns can be distinct with oval, splashes, frosted, or marbled.
“These sheep are each individuals. They all have individual spots, individual colors, and you can look out to the pasture from a distance and tell who you are looking at because they’re kind of painted up like palomino horses and dalmatian dogs but with more color, so it made me like them better,” he notes.
The painted desert rams, also known as the “Texas longhorn of sheep,” have the ability to grow what some call trophy horns. That’s why some of these animals are bought by hunting ranchers.
“The hunting ranches these days buy a lot of our big rams, and I really don’t want mine going there because I bottle fed most of them and taken care of most of them. But, it is a valid option for other breeders and other farms to carry their rams to auction where there will be eight or ten hunting ranches there bidding on them to put them on their hunting ranch for hunters.”
The painted desert breed is known for its flocking instinct. They are very docile especially when handled from birth. They also require no shearing.
Brent focuses on selling his offsprings to other breeders and those who have an interest in showing them. He is hopeful that more county fairs, 4-H’s, and FFA groups will have competitions for this specialty breed since it is Texas-specific.
“I think it is real important because it originated here in Texas and it didn’t come from anywhere else. It came from right here in the heart of Texas and it sounds to me like Texas agriculture and originated sheep from the heart of Texas kind of go together,” he adds.