Page images
PDF
EPUB

so alter the appearance of sheep, that a pair of twins of the closest resemblance, one thus treated and the other not, scarcely look as if they belonged to the same variety, and the fitted” one will far outsell the other. It is considered the breeder's right, in all kinds of domestic stock, to "put the best foot forward," and it is equally done with other breeds of sheep; but it is a pity that a higher standard of action cannot be permitted to prevail. Such fashions beget inducements to direct fraud. Thousands of painted sheep (painted to the true color by a preparation of oil, burnt umber, and a little lampblack) are annually hawked about the country, with pedigrees as artificial as their color, and sold as genuine simon pures.

Fitting sheep for sale by pampering is fraudulent, for it is never avowed or admitted, and if it were so, there can be no honest or decent excuse for a practice which is directly and undeniably fatal to the well-being of the animal. We have no right to poison what we sell, because we know there will be fools to buy it, and to buy it more readily because it is poisoned. Another result has followed this indiscriminate scramble for huge fleeces. Those who have carried it farthest have usually considerably depreciated the quality of the wool. The finest fleeces are not generally the heaviest. The greatest combination of wool and yolk-however coarse, uneven, and even hairy, the former-has been what these extremists have looked for in their breeding rams; and the progeny of such rams must of course partake of the same characteristics. I shall presently speak of the prevailing character of American merino wool.

To complete my account of these animals I must allude to one more modern fashion, that of breeding those folds and corrugations of the skin, usually termed "wrinkles." They, to a certain extent, characterized the original Spanish merino when introduced into this country, but they were confined principally to the neck. To a reasonable extent they are approved of in all countries where the merino is bred, being understood to indicate beary fleeces. But our American extremists reasoned that, if some were desirable, more would necessarily be better; and these wrinkles “took the eye” of novices. Our most sagacious breeders have continued to resist this innovation; but it is not uncommon to see rams, and even ewes, in addition to enormous neck-folds, closely covered from head to tail with folds in the skin, elevated an inch or more from the surface of the body. There are two profound objections to this. The wool on the upper part of the ridges very rarely corresponds in quality with that between them, thus destroying all evenness of fleece; and it often takes an expert shearer two hours to clip off the fleece of one sheep evenly. With shearers at $2 to $250 a day, the last consideration will prove an important one among wool growers who own sheep in any considerable Dumbers, and this miserable fashion cannot long prevail.

Notwithstanding the shams and deceits, as well as more innocent practices, which have been resorted to by a class of sellers of American merinos to produce great fleeces in their uwashell state, there has

unquestionably been a very great improvement in the actual weight of the washed or scoured fleeces within the last few years. I do not believe there is any other national family of merinos, or any other breed of sheep wha ever, that can vie with them in this respect. This fact is, I think, established by the scouring tests made so frequently during the last few years by State and local wool growers' associations, and by individuals. In all these, which have commanded any attention, the sheep have been publicly shorn at the meeting of an association, or, in individual tests, in the presence of a number of reputable witnesses. The age of the fleece has been proven by affidavits. Where the test made was the proportion of wool to weight of animal, the animal has been publicly weighed when shorn, and its condition noted. The associations have selected competent and reliable wool manufacturers to perform the scouring, and required of them statements of processes and results. The New York State association, in its scouring tests of 1865, 1866, and 1867, appointed a committee of eminent and experienced gentlemen to make an examination of all the facts and of the scoured wool;' and other State and county associations, and individuals, have taken these or other steps deemed necessary to secure accuracy and command entire public confidence.

These experiments have demonstrated that the scoured fleeces of American merino rams of full growth not unfrequently range from six to over eight pounds, and in a recent instance, in this State, (New York,) one reached the weight of nine pounds and three ounces, the fleece being of 11 months and 21 days' growth. This ram was three years old, weighed 108 pounds after shearing, and was in good condition. His unwashed fleece was 24 pounds. The scoured fleeces of full-grown American merino ewes frequently weigh from five to over five and a half pounds; the shorn carcases weighing from, say, 65 to 75 pounds. And it should be remarked that the heaviest fleeced sheep of the most celebrated flocks have, in very few instances, been entered in these scouring tests, for the reason, doubtless, that their owners have not been willing to risk their established reputation by any new or unnecessary experiments.

From the preceding facts it appears, first, that prime American merinos produced more washed wool in 184+46 than was produced of unwashed wool by the original stock in Spain, at their palmiest period, the opening of the present century; second, that prime American merinos produce about as much scoured wool now as they did of washed wool in 1844–46, and nearly twice as much scoured wool as the picked merino flock of the King of Great Britain from 1798 to 1802. They undoubtedly produce twice as much scoured wool as the average of the prime Spanish flocks at that period.

1 The committee also appraised the value of the scoured wool, and presented various other comparative data of value, not necessary to be mentioned bere.

2 I take into account the wethers in the King's flock, which yield considerably more wool than ewes.

It remains to speak of the quality of American merino wool. From the best information I can obtain, the wool of the descendants of the original Spanish sheep imported into this country rather gained in quality between 1809 and 1824. This was undoubtedly true of the Jarvis and Humphreys stocks; and from 1824 to 1846 there was a more decided gain in this direction, owing to the taste for fine wools diffused by the prevalence of the Saxons. After 1846, for reasons already stated, the demand for broadcloth wools ceased, and our merino breeders sought a rather coarser and also a longer staple, because it was equally adapted to the fabrics in which it was thenceforth employed, and because much heavier fleeces could thereby be secured. It is now, in our heaviest fleeced flocks, too coarse for a good quality of broadcloths, and it is also quite too long for that purpose, two inches and a half being not far from the medium length, and wool three inches long being frequently met with. It has a remarkably strong staple, and is found admirably adapted to fine wool combing purposes and to those medium fabrics which constitute so large a proportion of the consumption of the United States.

In regard to the particular properties of our full blood and grade American merino wools, the executive committee of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers, the committee itself consisting of the most eminent and successful manufacturers in the United States, bore the following voluntary testimony in a public report made in 1866: "In a class of fabrics, entering perhaps more largely than any other into general consumption that of flannels—the superiority due principally to the admirable adaptation of the common wools of this country, their strength and spinning qualities is so marked as almost wholly to exclude the foreign flannels. American fancy cassimeres compare favorably in finish, fineness, and strength, with those imported. Our delaines, owing again, in a great measure, to the excellence of our merino combing wool, surpass the fabrics of Bradford at the same price. The excellence of American shawls was admitted at the Great Exhibition in London.” And they subsequently add: “It has been the experience of all nations, that the domestic supply of this raw material has been the first, and always the chief, dependence of its manufacturers, and the peculiar character of this material has impressed itself upon the fabrics which each country has produced. Thus, in the fine wools of Saxony and Silesia, we have the source of German broadcloths; in the combing wools of England, the Worsteds of Bradford; and, in the long merino wools of France, the origin of her thibets and cashmeres. The peculiar excellencies of American Wools have given origin to our flannels, our cassimeres, our shawls, and our delaines; and they give strength and soundness to all the fabrics into which they enter."

A gradually reviving demand for wool suitable for broadeloths and some other fine fabrics has led to the introduction, within a few years,

of merinos of shorter and finer staple, from Silesia, in Prussia; sheep vastly superior to our former Saxons in size, constitution, and product of wool.

There are also Saxon sheep, so-called, of pure merino blood, in contiguous portions of western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and the part of West Virginia which lies between those States, which furnish a very high quality of broadcloth wool. They too are larger, hardier, and yield more wool than the original Saxons imported in 1824-1828. But any account or description of these families does not come within the province of this paper.

CORTLAND VILLAGE, New York, July, 1868.

APPENDIX B.

THE ANGORA GOAT; ITS ORIGIN, CULTURE, AND PRODUCTS."

By John L. HAYES, Secretary of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers. The Jardin des Plantes, the source and model of our societies of natural history, gave to the world not only Buffon and Cuvier, who, by their brilliant labors, won for the researches of the naturalist a place in the domain of science, before accorded only to studies of the imponderable elements, but two other scarcely less illustrious naturalists, whose labors were inspired by the purpose of applying their favorite science to increase the material resources of man. To this idea France owes the merino sheep with which Daubenton endowed her, and the Imperial Society of Acclimatation, the creation of Geoffroy St. Hilaire, which aims to submit to practical study all the animals by whose acquisition the geographical zone of France can be advantageously augmented. Trust ing that this society may regard with favor the discussion of a subject akin to those which have received the attention of the great practical naturalists of France, I propose to submit a memoir upon the Angora goat, the last acquisition which our agriculture and manufactures have received from the animal kingdom.

When we reflect that of the numerous species which compose the animal kingdom 43 only are at the command of man, and that the only lanigerous animal extensively appropriated in this country, besides its product of food, has furnished in a single year, from domestic sources, 70 per cent. of the raw material for a manufacture valued at over $120,000,000, we must regard the acquisition of a new animal, producing food and material for clothing, as an epoch in the industrial history of the country. It is the peculiar province of a society like this to aid the development of this new national resource by shedding the fullest light upon the specific and geographical source of this animal, upon its habits, food, and diseases, the use of its products, and, above all, upon the laws which govern its reproduction; in a word, to make upon this subject natural history applied. As my object is less to present original matter than to diffuse the best authenticated information, corrected by your criticism, or sanctioned by your approval, a work rendered necessary by the errors abounding in agricultural reports and publications, I shall avail myself of the memoirs of M. Brandt, M. Tchihatcheff, M. Sacc, and M. Boulier, naturalists of high repute, and the very numerous notices scattered through the proceedings of the Imperial Society of Acclimatation.

The description of this animal, given in 1855, by M. Brandt, director of the Museum at St. Petersburg, and distinguished among the zoologists

Read before the Boston Society of Natural History, March 18, 1€68.

« PreviousContinue »