Targhee sheep are one of the most modern sheep breeds in the world, having been first developed in the 20th century by the USDA Agricultural Research Service.
The breed gained its name from the Targhee National Forest, which is located around the Idaho US sheep experiment station. The breed is most popular in US states such as Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.
The breed gained some of its genetics from Lincoln, Rambouillet and Corriedale sheep and the first flock book for the breed actually closed in 1966, meaning only offspring from already registered sheep could be registered. It is thought that experiments to develop the breed began as early as 1900. The U.S. Targhee Sheep Association was founded in 1951.
Targhee sheep are actually a dual-purpose breed, used for both wool and meat production. They are, however, mainly raised for their wool and produce up to 6kgs of a fleece, which is of excellent quality.
Picture - Todd Klassy
Uses and Characteristics -
A medium to large sized breed, Targhee sheep are white in colour, with small amounts of darker pigmentation on the face and body accepted.
Their fleece should only be white in colour, with no brown or black tolerated. At full maturity, Targhee ewes tend to weigh from 56 to 90kgs, with rams usually slightly larger and heavier. The average live body weight of rams at full maturity ranges from 90 to 135 kgs in total.
As mentioned, the breed is raised for both meat and wool production, though mainly wool. Their wool is usually of excellent quality and ewes can produce a fleece of between 4.5-6.3kgs in weight. The fibre diameter usually ranges from 21 to 25 micrometers, with the average staple length from 3 to 5 inches. Fleeces from Targhee sheep have a yield of up to 55%.
Ewes have excellent mothering abilities and produce an abundance of milk for their young. Targhee ewes are known to have a high twinning percentage. Best suited to their native climates, Targhee sheep are a very hardy and strong sheep breed.
The breed, although only developed in the 20th century, is now one of the most common breeds in parts of the US. Not bad for a research experiment!