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breeds of fine-wooled sheep with uniform fleece. Fine-wooled sheep are believed to be native to Southwest Asia, where they were bred in the third and second centuries B.C. They subsequently appeared in Mediterranean countries and, beginning in the mid-18th century, were imported into Western Europe, North America, and Australia.
In Russia, various types of Merinos imported from other countries were bred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These breeds included the Electoral, Infantado, Negretti, and Rambouillet. Also raised in Russia were breeds developed by Russian sheep breeders—Russian Infantado, Mazaevskaia, and Novokavkazskaia. Soviet sheep breeders have developed highly productive breeds of Merino sheep, including the Ascanian, Soviet Merino, Azerbaijan Mountain Merino, Caucasian, Altai, Salskaia, Stavropol’, and Groznyi.
Merino fleece is made up of fine (15-25 microns), soft, fluffy fibers. The curly wool is 6-8 cm long after one year. The wool clip is 8-12 kg for rams (record is 30.6 kg, from an Ascanian ram), and 4-6 kg for ewes. The yield of pure wool is 35-45 percent. The distinguishing feature of Merinos is the presence of folds of skin on the neck and sometimes on the body. Merinos are crossbred with semifine-wooled and coarse-wooled breeds to improve the wool productivity of the last two.
Merinos are raised in most countries of the world. The largest populations are found in Australia (Australian Merinos), the USSR, and the Republic of South Africa (Australian Merinos, primarily the fine-wooled type). In the USSR, Merinos are raised in the Ukraine, in the steppe regions of the Northern Caucasus, in the Lower and Middle Volga regions, in southern Siberia, in Kazakhstan and Kirghizia, and in several regions of Transcaucasia.
REFERENCESOvtsevodstvo. Edited by P. A. Esaulov and G. R. Litovchenko. Moscow, 1963.
Rukovodstvo po razvedeniiu zhivotnykh, vol. 3, book 2. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from German.)