The Romeldale was developed in California by A. T. Spencer early in this century. Spencer purchased the entire contingent of Marsh New Zealand Romney rams that were exhibited at the 1915 Pan American Exposition in San Francisco. He bred these rams to his Rambouillet ewes, with the goal of improving both the meat and wool qualities of his stock.
This group of Romney-Rambouillet crosses were interbred and selected for both wool quality and high carcass yield. They became known as Romeldales. Much of the establishment of the Romeldale breed was accomplished by the J. K. Sexton family during the 1940s and 1950s. The Sextons selected the sheep for high rates of twinning, maternal ability, and nonseasonal reproduction. Soft handling wool was also a priority, as was fleece weight and a grade of 60s to 64s.
Romeldale sheep are white, but during the 1960s, colored lambs appeared in the breed. Glen Eidman, a partner of the Sextons, became interested in these sheep and line bred them for several generations, further selecting for fleece quality. He referred to this group of sheep as California Variegated Mutants, usually shortened to CVM. The classic color pattern of the CVM is the badgerface, a light body with a dark belly and dark head. This pattern creates a range of shades of color on a single fleece. Selection has increased the range of variablility in fleece colors to include gray, black, brown, and moorit. Fleece colors darken, rather than fade during maturation.
CVM and Romeldale sheep may be considered two closely related breeds or two parts of a single breed. With the exception of color, CVMs and Romeldales have similar characteristics. The sheep weigh 150-275 pounds. The rams are active breeders, while the ewes are excellent mothers, prolific and long lived. Twinning and ease of lambing are considered important breed attributes.
FACE – generally open-faced although some wool is found on the forehead. Eyes should be large, clear and alert with ears medium in size and generally horizontal.
BODY – sturdy and well boned with a long straight back. Neck and shoulders should be largely free of skin folds. Legs should be strong, medium in length with pasterns strong and upright. Sheep should move well with a free, easy walk.
RAMS – weigh from 225 to 275 lbs. and are determined, virile breeders able to cover more than the average number of ewes. Rams should appear strongly masculine.
EWES – weigh from 140 to 175 lbs. and are prolific and long-lived. They should have a feminine appearance. Ewes should be excellent mothers who are very protective & having milk enough to easily raise twins.
LAMBING – twinning and ease of lambing are part of the breed emphasis. If left with the ram, ewes have been known to breed while still suckling lambs.
FLEECE – annually, each sheep grows an average of 6 to 12 pounds of washed wool with an average yield of 65%. Fleece should be bright, dense and uniform front to britch. Belly wool shall only be allowed on the belly. Staple length averages 3 to 6 inches with a Bradford Count of 64 to 60 (or equivalent micron count of 21-28). The wool is soft and can be worn “next to the skin”. The wool should have a well-defined crimp from base to tip with no kemp present.
COLOR – Romeldales come in two varieties. White and Natural Colored. White Romeldales should have entirely white fleeces. They may have spots on their face, ears or legs. Natural Colored Romeldales come in a variety of colors including: black, gray, brown and moorit. Natural Colored Romeldales can be solid, reverse badger and can have spots – particularly prevalent on their faces. They may also have darker legs than their body.
The California Variegated Mutant (CVM’s)
CVM’s have the same standards as the American Romeldale with the exception of markings and color. CVM’s might also have spots but must have the badger pattern as well.
MARKINGS – A CVM must have the badger markings, which are stripes from the muzzle to the eyes, and/or dark legs and underbelly. Unlike most breeds, CVMs will not fade with age but may darken from birth to their first year.
COLOR – CVM’s come in a wide variety of colors including dark gray, black, brown and moorit.