Sheep and goats have been an important part of Navajo life since the 1500s. Read about the importance they have played in Navajo life by clicking on the titles below:
Native Americans were first introduced to Churra sheep brought to North America by colonizing Spaniards in the 1500s. The Navajo and Zuni proved to be very good herders and weavers and Churro sheep became a main source of their negotiable wealth. Churros come in a variety of colors, including reds, browns, black, white, and mixes, and color may change with age.
The color is made up of fleece color and the separate color of the head and legs. The fleece comes in a wide variety of natural colors and may have spots and patches of contrasting color. In many cases this eliminates the need for dying although some natural dyes are used to produce deeper colors. The Navajo people have used Churro fleece in rugs and other weavings for many years.
Navajo Angora Goats
Records related to Angora Goats state that the mohair has been used as far back as the time of Moses. Goats are said to be the second animal to be domesticated (dogs were first). The Navajo Angora, also known as the ‘Spanish’, ‘Traditional’, or ‘Heritage’ Angora, are not of Spanish origin but are descendants of animals first imported from Turkey to the United States in 1849 by Dr. James P. Davis of South Carolina.
Navajo, already raising Churro sheep and other goats, added Angora goats to their flocks in the early 1900s. Both Churro Sheep and Angora Goats tolerate the southwest’s arid climate and harsh browsing conditions.
The Navajo Angora has ample fiber coverage over its entire body, but lacks fiber coverage on its face past the forehead, ears, and legs below the hock/knee (a small amount of downy fiber on the sides of the legs is sometimes seen). This is an advantage as it prevents build up of burrs and other plant materials in the areas most likely to contact plants. Animals can be of any color or pattern. The average Navajo Angora produces 3-4 pounds of mohair per shearing and are shorn twice a year.
Sheep images in Native American art represent charity, patience, gentleness and riches. Sheep, goats and weaving are familiar scenes on storyteller items.