Breed Association NSIP Contact
and Data Coordinator
18235 Wildlife Road
Fayetteville, AR 72701
A Breed Whose Time Has Come
Katahdin are an improved breed of hair sheep, the first hair breed to meet North American industry standards for carcass quality. They are hardy, adaptable, low maintenance sheep that is naturally tolerent of climateic extremes and is ideal for pasture lambing and grass/foragebased management systems. They are medium-sized and efficient, bred for utility and for production in a variety of management systems. Ewes have exceptional mothering ability and lamb easily; lambs are born vigorous and alert. They do not produce a fleece and therefore do not require shearing. One of the most outstanding characteristics of the Katahdin is its natural resistance to internal parasites.
They do not produce a fleece and therefore do not require shearing.
Katahdin Hair Sheep International (KHSI) breeder organization and registry was incorporated in 1985. The Katahdin is one of the most popular breeds of registered sheep in the U.S.
The Katahdin breed originated at the Piel Farm in north central Maine where Michael Piel was an innovator and “amateur geneticist” who enjoyed raising livestock. His first intentions related to establishing a sheep enterprise were to use sheep to graze power lines instead of spraying or mowing the vegetation. He then developed other ideas on how to employ sheep for land management.
Piel imported “African Hair Sheep,” as they were called then, to Maine from St. Croix in November 1957. All were less than a year of age, born triplets, unrelated for many generations, and woolless with woolless siblings. One female was tan in color, the others were white. The ram lamb, “King Tut,” was used for breeding a handful of ewes, including Tunis, Southdown, Hampshire, Suffolk, and the “African” ewe lambs. From this point on, crosses of many breed combinations (including Cheviots and other “Down” breeds), were made as Piel tried to determine what would create the type of ewe he was looking for. He was particularly selecting for hair coat, meat-type conformation, high fertility, and flocking instinct.
In the early 1970s, Piel felt he had come close to his goal of a “meat sheep that did not require shearing.” He selected from his large flock approximately 120 of the best ewes and called them “Katahdin” sheep after Mt. Katahdin, the highest peak in the state of Maine.