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The Harlequin sheep as we know it today was developed by Kathleen Sterling, owner of Black Sheep Farm East in VA about 35 years ago. A variety of breeds were used to develop the Harlequin breed including Karakul, Tunis,
Corriedale, Lincoln, Border Leicester, Romney, Montadale rams.
When Ms. Sterling’s goal of consistently producing a sheep the size and basic conformation of the Southdown breeds with fleece of varied color, staple length and texture was realized some 15 years ago the flock became a closed breed. Harlequins come in a standard size and a miniature. Whatever size, once you meet one, you'll know why they are known as the "fun" sheep.
While the Harlequin has standardized itself as a handsome breed of its own, breeders continue to improve on the size and “look” in achievement of Ms. Sterling’s vision.
To that end, and to continue to breed the size downward, the registry is accepting lambs that are the result of a registered Harlequin cross bred to a registered Babydoll Southdown.
This allows us to introduce new bloodlines we can build with to reach a target of 500 American Purebred (AP) Harlequin sheep. Once we’ve reached that number, the breed will be closed.
Harlequins as adults are a miniature sheep with ewes weighing from 80-120 lbs and rams weighing 90-150 at maturity.
At this weight, they are ideal for young children, teens, "Senior" shepherds and everyone in between.
Being naturally polled (hornless), no worries about super serious injury.
"Harleys" are a hardy breed and easy lambers, often having multiples over many years.
Harlequins are known for their fine, medium staple length wool, similar to the wool from Babydolls.
Babydoll/Harlequin crosses offer a rich, dark, cocoa brown fleece. When a tri-color fleece is processed, the roving often comes out a beautiful light gray.
The fleece of most mature Harlequins can be separated into off white, brown, gray and tan to produce roving in those colors.
Despite being relatively rare, Harlequins are affordable. If you are considering them to obtain or maintain an ag exemption on your land or purchasing for your kids or grandkids as a 4H or FFA project, you'll find they
are truly worth their "weight in gold" due to their versatility on the farm, in your yard or in the show ring.
In fact, the first Harlequin sheep were shown at the Great State Fair of Texas in 2017 by Steven Williams where they placed 1, 2 and 3! Steve then went on to show at world famous Houston Stock Show garnering two Reserve Champion titles.