Breed Association NSIP Contact
and Data Coordinator
147 Boulder Road
Big Timber, MT 59011
The All-American Breed
Columbia sheep were developed by the United States Department of Agriculture as a true breeding type to replace cross breeding on the range. The Columbia breed has found widespread acceptance throughout the United States and is used increasingly to sire crossbred market lambs. Columbias are one of the larger-sized breeds. They produce a heavy, medium-wool fleece with good staple length and hardy, fast-growing lambs.
Today’s Columbia is a popular breed, with heavy, white fleeces and good growth characteristics.
The mature Columbia rams weigh between 225 and 300 pounds (100-135 kg) and the females weigh 150 to 225 pounds (68 – 102 kg). The average fleece weight of the ewes ranges from 10 to 16 pounds (4.5 – 7.3 kg) with a yield of 45 to 55%. The staple length of the wool ranges from 3.5 to 5 inches (9-13 cm). The wool is classified as medium wool with a numeric count of 50′s -60′s. The wool varies from 31.0 to 24.0 microns.
The foundation of the Columbia Sheep Breeders Association of America is built on the superior qualities of Columbias which make them the most profitable sheep to produce. Their ability to make larger gains on grass and less feed plus their uniformity in quality and the prepotency of Columbia sires combine to make Columbias the world’s most productive breed of sheep. While they were originally developed for range conditions, they have proved admirably adaptable to the lush grasses and farm flock management throughout America.
The Columbia is truly an All-American breed, the first to originate in the United States. In 1912, rams of the long wool breeds were crossed with high quality Rambouillet ewes to produce large ewes yielding more pounds of wool and more pounds of lamb. The first cross Lincoln-Rambouillet line was the most promising of all crosses. The Bureau of Animal Industry maintained this line and by intensive breeding and selection produced a true breeding strain with characteristics of the superior crossbred line. The original cross was made at Laramie, Wyoming, and the Foundation of the Government Columbia flock was moved to the Sheep Experiment Station at Dubois, Idaho, in 1918. Today’s Columbia is a popular breed, with heavy, white fleeces and good growth characteristics.