The fur from Sheep and Lamb is incredibly warm, hardwearing, practical and acceptable to wear in today’s anti-fur society, as it is a by-product of an animal that is also a food source.
There has been much confusion over the identification of the many varieties of sheep and lamb fur treatments and breeds. Generally speaking, Persian Lamb, Broadtail Lamb, and Persian-Broadtail Lamb are of the same species of Karakul Lamb, which is native to Central Asia.
Broadtail-Processed Lamb, Mouton and Shearling are specific treatments of Lamb fur and are not related to any specific breed of Lamb.
Karakul Lamb is native to Central Asia and is named after a village called Karakul. They are the oldest breed of domesticated lamb. Also known as Fur Sheep they have beautiful patterned silky pelts with a strong fiber that was felted into fabric or woven into carpeting.
The Karakul is distinguished by the color of its fleece, which is due to a dominant black gene. Most Lambs are born coal black with lustrous wavy curls, with the face, ears, and legs usually showing smooth, sleek hair. As the Lamb grows, the curls open and its pattern is lost. The color generally begins to turn brownish or bluish gray, getting grayer with age. In its native region the colors are called Arabi (black), Guligas (pink-roan), Kambar (brown), Shirazi (grey) and Sur (agouti). Occasionally individuals are white or pied.
Many adults have a double coat, a fine down undercoat, covered by a coat of guard hair. The best have a fleece as glossy as their lamb coat. There is great variability in the fleece type of both coats, from ‘horse tail’ coarse to silky soft.
Persian Lamb may be used to describe the skin of the young Lamb of the Karakul breed of sheep or top-cross breed of such sheep, having hair formed in knuckled curls. Astrakhan is originally the fleece of the Karakul found in Russia, which is also known as Persian Lamb.
Broadtail Lamb may be used to describe the skin of the prematurely born, stillborn, or very young Lamb of the Karakul breed of sheep or top-cross breed of such sheep, having flat light-weight fur with a moiré pattern.
Persian-broadtail Lamb may be used to describe the skin of the very young Lamb of the Karakul breed of sheep or top-cross breed of such sheep, having hair formed in flattened knuckled curls with a moiré pattern.
Broadtail-processed Lamb: The term ‘Broadtail-processed Lamb’ may be used to describe the skin of a lamb which has been sheared, leaving a moiré hair pattern on the pelt which has the appearance of Broadtail Lamb but comes from a different breed of lamb than the Karakul.
Mouton: The skin of a lamb which has been sheared and the hair straightened, chemically treated and thermally set to produce a moisture repellent finish. Mouton is often dyed brown to resemble Beaver, but it is also found in many other colors.
Shearling: The hide of a one-year-old Lamb that has been shorn once. The outside of the coat is soft suede leather with the inside a warm layer of wool. Shearling coats are desirable for warmth and ability to keep out wind.
Karakuls were introduced to the US in the 1910’s and 1920’s for pelt production. US breeders introduced other breeds into the Karakul bloodline, which resulted in inferior pelt quality. Eventually the industry and flocks were dispersed.