Tunis Sheep are distinctive looking, with their truly red-gold faces and legs, and cream colored fleece. Tunis are born either a tan or red color. As they mature they gradually turn a creamy white with light tan or reddish faces and legs, sometimes with a white spot on the forehead and tip of the tail. They have expressive eyes, long pendulous ears and a slender head, they are known to be a calm, docile breed. Tunis wool is a fine to medium, down-type wool with lots of loft. This soft and bouncy fiber makes a springy yarn which is great for a variety of projects.
Evolving from a number of fat-tailed breeds imported in the late 18th century from the Middle East and Africa, then cross-bred with several established European breeds, the Tunis is one of the oldest breeds in the United States. The first documented evidence of their arrival in America was in 1799 when Judge Richard Peters of Pennsylvania received Tunis sheep from the ruler of Tunisia as a gift. These sheep and other imports became established in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. The Civil War almost exterminated the breed, but one flock survived in South Carolina, descendents of this flock were taken to Indiana in 1894 where they have thrived to this day.
Although Tunis sheep are listed on The Livestock Conservancy Priority List, it is now listed as a breed to “Watch” i.e. “Fewer than 2,500 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 10,000”, there has been a steady increase in registrations for the past 10 years showing the breed’s recovery and growing popularity.