More than 40 breeds of sheep live in India, though not all of them are readily available. Sheep are critical to India’s economy, used to produce carpet, clothing, and mutton. A 2003 census revealed that the country has a sheep population of 61.5 million.
Gaddi sheep are medium-size animals with short, flat tails. Their wool is generally white but can be tan, brown or black. Kashmir Merino sheep originated from the Gaddi. Their fleece is considered some of the finest wool in the world and is used in the production of clothing. The Northern region is also home to Bakharwal sheep, which have been classified as an endangered species by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources. Only 78 Bakharwal sheep were found in the states of Jammu and Kashmir in 2007. Wool from the Changthangi and Gurez sheep is used to make carpets; that of the Karnah is used for apparel wool.
With a population of more than 300,000, Magra sheep are found only in the Bikander district. Their extremely white wool is used primarily for producing fine carpets. Ewes cannot be bred until 18 months of age and produce single litters. Chokla sheep have hairless faces and dense coats,, and claim a population of more than a half-million. Other breeds found in the Northwestern region of India include the Jaisalmeri, Jalauni, Kher, Malpura, Marwari, Muzaffarnagari, Pugal and Sonadi. All these breeds are used for both mutton and carpet wool.
Southern Peninsular Region
The Deccani sheep are tough, hardy animals, well-adapted to the extreme temperatures of the southern region. Primarily bred for mutton, males weigh 81 to 83 pounds and females 63 pounds. According to a 2007 livestock census, more than 4 million Decanni sheep inhabit India. The Madras red is also raised for mutton, males averaging 77 pounds and females 50 pounds. Their fleece is extremely short and usually brown. India is home to more than 1 million Madras red sheep. The southern peninsula is home to another 10 sheep breeds, all raised for mutton. They include the Hassan, Kanguri, Kilakarsal, Mandya, Mecheri, Nellore, Nilgiri, Rammand White, Tiruchy Black and Vembur.
The Balangir sheep of the Eastern region are light brown in color. Their ears are short and knobby and their fleece is extremely coarse. About 130,000 Balangir sheep are counted, bred for carpet wool and mutton. Tibetan sheep run in flocks ranging in size from 50 to 250. They produce beautiful wool, used to manufacture carpet. Bonpala sheep produce white or black fleece, also used to make carpets. About 600,000 Bonpala sheep are counted. Additional breeds found in the Eastern region include the Chottanagpuri, Ganjam and Garole. All three breeds are raised for mutton.
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