A Brief Navajo-Churro History …
The Churra, a traditional Spanish sheep breed, was the very first breed of sheep in the New World. Imported in 1598, by the Spanish explorer Juan de Onate, their name is Spanish for “scrub”. (Note: There is also a Mexican delicacy known as a “churros.”) The original Spanish Churra were a tough sheep, adapting quickly to the harsh conditions of the American Southwest.
As Native Americans and settlers acquired sheep from the Spanish explorers, the breed’s popularity as a food and fiber source grew and the sheep became a major economic asset. However from the 1860s on, the U.S. Goverment decimated the native flocks, initially blaming continued Navajo raiding and overgrazing. Slaughtering of large numbers of sheep with no regard to breed improvements left the Navajo-Churro scattered in isolated canyons well into the mid 1900s. By 1990 fewer than 700 of these sheep remained. It was—and is—up to dedicated breeders to bring them back.
Although it is used as a meat source, the Navajo-Churro remains best known for its wool. The fleece is composed of an inner coat of fine wool fibers providing good insulation and a protective outer coat of long coarse hair which sheds the snow and rain.
The sheep come in colors ranging from pure white through black including gray, browns, pinto and spotted. To see more about the colors and patterns go to Navajo-Churro Sheep Assoc Color Terms. Rugs woven from their fleece are found in the finest
museums and collections.
Considered one of the few “American” breeds, the Navajo-Churro is categorized by
ALBC as a rare breed.
It is a narrow, light-bodied sheep with long, clean legs. Native Americans continue to prefer the Churro for their fabrics and rugs because of its hardiness and its clean, long, lustrous wool.
The Navajo-Churro Sheep association was formed in 1986. The goal of NCSA is to preserve and promote the breed. Contact them for breed standards or registered flocks. For further information about this elegant breed, visit the site of the
Navajo-Churro Sheep Breeders Association.