Askanian Sheep

What is the history of Askanian Sheep?

The Askanian Sheep (Askaniiskaya) breed was developed during 1925-34 by M.F. Ivanov in Askania Nova which lies in the arid steppe of the Ukraine.

Finewooled sheep had been raised there for more than a hundred years. The breed is based on local Merino sheep which survived World War I and the Civil War.

These were small animals with thin wool of medium fineness. Most of them had small wrinkles; the conformation was good and the production low.

The live weight of ewes was 40-42 kg (max. 50 kg). Ortalama yapağı ağırlığı 4.5-4.6 kg, temiz yün verimi ise% 33-35 idi.

M.F. Ivanov set himself the task of producing, on the basis of the Askania-Nova flock, unwrinkled sheep of the Merino type with a live weight up to 60 kg, good conformation, long worsted wool of medium fineness (60s-64s quality) and high fleece weight and wool yield. The animals were to meet the environmental conditions of the Ukrainian arid steppes.

Local Merino ewes were mated to American Rambouillet rams, with selection and culling of the offspring. Meat qualities were improved by infusing small quantities of Precoce blood. The most valuable animals were obtained among crossbreds with one-half and one-quarter of Rambouillet blood. To fix the desired type inbreeding was practised on a moderate scale.
After the Second World War the Askanian breed was re-established by pure breeding of the remaining flock and by grading up finewool ewes brought from the North Caucasus with purebred Askanian rams.

Total breed numbers declined slightly between 1964 and 1969 but purebreds increased. Since then they have remained relatively stable. In 1980  the total was 1 782 820 (90% purebreds) including 37 417 breeding rams, 10 649 other  rams, and 1 193 157 ewes and yearlings.

What are the characteristics of Askanian Sheep?

The Askanian breed is known for its uniform type and high productivity.

Sheep are large in size, have one or two wrinkles, and good mutton conformation.

Withers height of ewes is 68-70 cm, oblique body length 70-72 cm, and chest girth 100-102 cm.

The skeleton is sufficiently strong; there are no particular faults in the conformation.

Rams are horned, and ewes are usually polled.

Ewes have satisfactory precocity: heavily fed 18-month-olds reach the live weight of adult ewes. The finished weight of 9-month-old lambs is 42.2 kg and the carcass weight is 18.9 kg.

The wool is white and uniform. The fleece has a blocky staple; it is of medium density. The crimp is regular and distinct. The wool is of 64s-60s quality (22-24 m) in ewes and 60s-58s (24-26 m) in rams.

The staple length is 7.5-9.0 cm in ewes and 8-10 cm (max. 13) in rams. The yolk is light yellow or cream, rarely white.

Fleece weight is 6.5-8.0 kg in ewes and 16-19 kg in rams, with clean wool yield of 42-45%. In the best flocks the clean fleece weight is 3.0-3.2 kg.

The maximal fleece weight of 31.7 kg was sheared from a ram at the Krasny Chaban breeding centre in the Kherson region, which is the absolute world record for all breeds.

The best breeding flocks of Askanian sheep are on Askania Nova and Krasny Chaban breeding centres in Kherson region and Kommunist farm in Zaporozhye region.

According to the breed regionalization plan, the breed is raised in the south of the Ukraine and is used for improving other finewooled breeds. It was used to produce such breeds as the Caucasian, Azerbaijan Mountain Merino, and Soviet Merino.

Selection work with the breed is aimed at improving wool and meat qualities, early maturity and adaptability to the conditions of intensive sheep breeding and farming. The State Flockbook lists 4968 ewes and 200 rams.

What is the weight of Askanian Sheep?

The live weight of Askanian ewes is 58-65 kg and Askanian rams is 110-120 kg.

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