Maine farmer Michael Piel took about 20 years to develop the Katahdin breed, crossing African Hair Sheep, selected for hair coat, hardiness and prolificacy, with various British breeds, selected for meat qualities and growth rate. By the 1970s, he believed he had produced a breed that combined the desired traits effectively, naming it after Mt. Katahdin, the highest mountain in his home state.
Katahdins are the easy care sheep, making them less daunting for new shepherds. They shed their coats, so they don’t require shearing. Their wool-less tails stay clean and fly free, eliminating the reason for docking. They are resistant to internal parasites, reducing or eliminating the need to deworm. Another big asset is their excellent reproductive ability. Katahdins are often bred to lamb as yearlings and usually do so unassisted. Their mothering instincts are strong, and they tend to produce twins and ample milk to feed them.
For seven of the past 10 years, Katahdins have led the way in the total number of registrations of any sheep breed in the US. In fact, during this time period, the hair sheep breeds have nearly doubled in terms of the number of animals registered, while traditional wool sheep breeds have leveled or declined.