- Fat-tailed sheep
The fat-tailed sheep is a category of
domestic sheepthat comprise approximately 25% of the world sheeppopulation (Davidson, 1999). Breeds of fat-tailed sheep are commonly found in northern parts of Africa, the Middle and Near East, in particular, the Fertile Crescent, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Varieties of fat-tailed sheep can also be found in Northern India, West China and Mongolia as well. The earliest record of this sheep variety is found in ancient Uruk(3000 BCE) and Ur(2400 BCE) on stone vessels and mosaics. Another early reference is found in the Bible( Leviticus3:9) [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Bible%2C_English%2C_King_James%2C_Documentary_Hypothesis%2C_Leviticus#Chapter_3] , where a sacrificial offering is described which includes the tail fat of sheep.
Sheep were specifically bred for the unique quality of the fat stored in the tail area and the fat (called "allyah") was used extensively in medieval
Araband Persian cookery. The tail fat is still used in modern cookery, though there has been a reported decline, with other types of fat and oils having increased in popularity.
Fat-tailed sheep are hardy and adaptable, able to withstand the tough challenges of desert life. When feed is plentiful and parasites not a major factor, fat-tailed sheep can be large in size and growth. The carcass quality of these sheep is quite good, with most of the fat concentrated in the tail area - it could account for as much as 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of the weight on a 60 pound (27 kilogram) carcass. The carcass and meat are preferred by MuslimsFact|date=November 2007 and are used in the various traditional dishes prepared by the indigenous people. The only fat-tailed breed seen frequently in the US is the Karakul. There is a growing market for sheep of this type as the ethnic market is the fastest growing sector of lamb consumption in North America.
The wool from fat-tailed breeds is usually coarse and frequently has colored fibers. It would be of limited value in commercial markets. Today it is used primarily for rug-making and other cottage-type industries. Bedouin women make beautiful rugs and blankets from the wool. Some of their handiwork can be purchased in the villages of Egypt. Shearing in Egypt is done once or twice a year with hand clippers. There is a reluctance to use electric shears because of wool quality and the difficulty in getting replacement parts when they become dull or worn out.
*Davidson, A., 1999, "Oxford Companion to Food" pp. 290-293. ISBN 0-19-211579-0
* Reay Tannahill, 1973, "Food in History" p. 62 and 176. ISBN 0-8128-1437-1
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