Glass-fronted wooden box, displaying a wool sample. ABN 70 592 297 967  |  The National Museum of Australia is an Australian Government Agency, The Untold Stories of Cook and the First Australians, Media launch for 'Chris' the sheep's record-breaking fleece. Gordon returned the original breeding animals in 1791 when ordered to do so by the Dutch government, but kept their offspring. The sheep came from a flock originally given to Prince William of Orange in the Netherlands by King Carlos III of Spain. As such, two separate varieties of the Spanish merino sheep emerged over hundreds of years. They curve outwards. However, the good times did not last for long. Sheepdogs move sheep to where the farmer tells them. In the second half of the 19th century, Australian merino breeders intensively crossbred their sheep with other international merino bloodlines. The wool industry has been an integral part of the Australian economy for 200 years, but has experienced a series of boom and bust cycles. Captain Henry Waterhouse and Lieutenant William Kent brought the first flock of 26 merinos from the Cape of Good Hope to Port Jackson in 1797. In 1789, the Prince had sent two rams and four ewes to the warmer Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope to be cared for by Colonel Robert Jacob Gordon. 1797: Introduction of the merino sheep to Australia. This produced larger, more robust sheep that could yield up to 10 times more fleece than the original Spanish variety. Sheep are farmed for wool  or meat or milk. ©Getty Images. The Spanish monarchy owned one of the finest flocks of transient merinos in Spain and tightly controlled access to the breed. Over millennia, various sheep breeds have been developed across the world in response to local conditions and selective breeding. Sheep like to be with other sheep, so they naturally gather in groups. Not all sheep have white fleece. ©Getty Images. Exporting merinos was banned, on pain of death, prior to 1765. It was fortuitous that the production and export of Macarthur’s Australian wool took place when the British Government was looking for a dependable supply during the ongoing Napoleonic wars in Europe. The first sheep in Australia were brought here with the first fleet in 1788. Brian Evesson, ‘The foundation of Australia’s fine wool industry’ in History, June 2000. Their wool was finer, more densely crimped, cleaner, more elastic and stronger, and thus better suited to the expanding woollen textile industry in Europe. Sheep are sheared one at a time. Welcome to, a website established in 1999 for primary students and teachers. People go to butcher shops or supermarkets to buy the meat. Pure wool clothing keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer, and it is flame resistant, which means it does not catch on fire. The cut wool is called fleece. Farmers fatten them up. DISCLAIMER: In the interest of a safe, educational online experience. By the late 19th century, wool was Australia’s main export. There is fine wool or coarse wool. Australia is now the number one producer of fine wool. They eat grass. However, during the First World War the industry received a boost when the British Government bought Australian wool at favourable fixed rates. After the sheep is shorn, it goes out  to a different yard and then back to the paddocks. In Australia a group of sheep is often called a mob. Some breeds of sheep are grown for meat. A spindle is an ancient way of spinning into yarn that can be woven or knitted. For details of the CAL licence for educational institutions contact: Copyright Agency. Wool can also be spun by hand, using a spindle or a spinning wheel. kidcyber provides links to other web pages, selected and examined for their appropriateness, to provide more information about a particular topic. The first flock of merinos greatly increased in the 1820s with another 5000 imported from Europe and South Africa. Human domestication of wild animals began with the dog more than 12,000 years ago and sheep and other livestock followed soon after. Some kinds have coloured fleece. The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) allows 10% of the number of words on this website to be reproduced and/or communicated by any Australian educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or the body that administers it) has given a Notice to Copyright Agency under part VB of the Act. Captain John Macarthur, an officer in the NSW Corps, offered Captain Waterhouse 15 guineas a head for the surviving sheep on the condition he could buy them all. Lawson Crescent Acton Peninsula, CanberraDaily 9am–5pm, closed Christmas Day Freecall: 1800 026 132, Museum Cafe9am–4pm, weekdays9am–4.30pm, weekends. Intended as a source of meat, they were not well suited to the Australian environment and, like the Indian sheep that were later imported, did not produce good quality wool. Fences and yards have to be kept in good condition as does all the farm machinery and other equipment. A ewe gives birth about 150 days after mating with a ram. The remainder went to Macarthur. It has also been used for cross breeding with British Long Wool & Short Wool Breeds for mutton and prime lamb production. Year Book Australia, 2003: ‘The wool industry —  looking back and forward’ Australian Bureau of Statistics. All inquiries should be made to the copyright owner at, Read the kidcyber page about wool. This increased the quality of their wool and the number of merino bloodlines available in the colony. Sometimes a ewe has twin lambs. This is called shearing, and people who do it are called shearers. His land grant was cleared using convicts and, as owners of the first farm in the colony with 50 acres or more cleared and cultivated, the Macarthurs were awarded a further 100 acres. The first sheep in Australia arrived with the First Fleet in 1788. Russell Moor, ‘The Marsden legacy’ in History, June 2000. Waterhouse refused the offer and grazed his sheep at The Vineyard, a 140-acre property on the Parramatta River he had bought on his return from the Cape. In 1807 the Macarthurs sent the first bale of Australian wool to England for sale. When Waterhouse returned to England in 1800, William Cox bought most of the flock from him, including several of the original sheep from the Cape. Although many in Australia and Britain regarded him as a rogue, Macarthur worked hard to start Australia’s wool industry. Settled merinos (estantes) had coarser wool in response to the harsher weather conditions they endured in winter, while the transient merinos (transhumantes) were moved to seasonal pastures throughout the year and so developed finer, softer wool. We are an Australian approved and licensed livestock exporter with extensive knowledge in … Some rams have horns. Some farms raise female sheep for their milk, which is made into cheese and yoghurt. In France, the milk from roquefort (say rock-for) sheep is used to make a famous cheese also called roquefort. There are about 74 million sheep in Australia. This website contains names, images and voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The unit price for wool again improved dramatically during the Second World War as demand increased for uses such as uniforms and blankets. Level 15, 233 Castlereagh Street Sydney NSW 2000 Telephone: +612 9394 7600 Facsimile: +612 9394 7601 E-mail:, Except as permitted under the Act (for example for the services of the Crown or in reliance on one of the fair dealing exceptions i.e. Recent books written together include Using the Library 1, 2 & 3; Thinking Through Themes (4 titles: Air, Fire, Water, Earth); and The Perfect School Project, published by and available at Teaching Solutions. In 1797 the first merino sheep were landed in Australia. By the 1950s, the industry was booming and it was said that ‘Australia was riding on the sheep’s back’. As his flock increased, Waterhouse distributed a few sheep between Macarthur, the Reverend Samuel Marsden, Lieutenant Kent and Captain Thomas Rowley. There are more than 200 different kinds of sheep. The wool is cut close to the sheep's skin, and comes off in one piece. ©Getty Images. Australia's Defining Moments Digital Classroom. Yarn is knitted into clothes, or woven into cloth or rugs. Merino sheep in … Slowly the wool industry has rebuilt itself and today, although Australia accounts for less than 10 per cent of the world’s sheep population, it dominates the global fine wool market, producing more than 50 per cent of the world’s merino wool. We are authors (together, individually and with others) of numerous books for teachers and kids, published in Australia and overseas. The National Museum of Australia acknowledges First Australians and recognises their continuous connection to country, community and culture. Australia has the most sheep of any country after China. By lobbying influential administrators, Macarthur was also able to secure extensive land grants for merino farming. Its uses and its properties. A sheep farm a hot, dry part of Australia ©Getty Images, Clippers used for shearing by hand © Getty Images.

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