Why the Merino?

Development of a Breed

Many animals have been domesticated by humans for our personal use, but few have been domesticated to have two purposes. Sheep have been domesticated for both meat and wool production, but the Merino breed has been selectively bred over the years for wool – and lots of it¹. The Merino breed was developed in Spain and was brought over to Australia in the late 1700s¹. The breed thrived in a warm climate that was very similar to the environment in Spain¹. This particular breed of sheep was bred to have wrinkly skin, which allows for a greater surface area on the animal for growing wool². Selective breeding between sheep with wrinkly skin and high wool growth has led to the existence of the Merino breed². The wrinkly skin is also one of the main reasons for many of the animal welfare issues that are brought up when talking about the Australian wool industry.

What do we use wool for?

Wool is primarily used today in textiles. We like to use wool for bedding material, clothing and carpets². Wool has many properties that cannot be mimicked in synthetic fibres.

For instance, wool will self-extinguish if it’s caught on fire and it will keep you warm even if it is wet². Wool, like many other natural fibres, allows your skin to breathe, unlike synthetic fibres that keep all the moisture close to your skin². Merino wool, in particular, is highly valued for its softness and warmth. The fibre can be spun and it is very popular among knitters and other fibre enthusiasts.

Photos from Flickr users Liam_OMalley and Maia C.

¹ Australia.gov.au July 13 2007 The Macarthurs and the merino sheep. Available at: http://australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/macarthurs-and-the-merino-sheep Accessed Feb. 1 2012

² WoolProducers Australia. 2007. About Wool. Available at:
http://www.woolproducers.com.au/about-wool/ Accessed Feb. 1 2012

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