Florida Crackers are one of the
oldest breeds of sheep in North America. It is believed that they were
developed from sheep that the Spanish first brought to the southeastern United
States in the 1500's. They developed largely through natural selection under
humid semitropical range conditions in Florida. Prior to the end of open range
in 1949, they were allowed to free range.
In the middle of the last
century, the emphasis on high input agriculture caused the sheep industry to
turn to breeds of sheep, which were larger in size and produced more wool and
meat. This caused the numbers of Florida Cracker sheep to decline dramatically
endangering its very existence. Now, with renewed interest in low-input
sustainable agriculture, interest in Florida Cracker sheep is increasing once
Florida Cracker sheep are both
active and vigorous without any tendency to be wild. They demonstrate greater
resistance to internal parasites than do both wool sheep and most other hair
sheep breeds. The ewes can breed back one month after lambing, and ewes can
produce two lamb crops per year. Ewes usually bear twins, with some singles,
frequent triplets, and occasional quadruplets; lambing rates vary from
Ewes can weigh 100 lbs while rams
reach weights of 150 lbs. The size of the sheep depends primarily on how well
it is fed. The sheep are able to handle harsh conditions and low-grade forages.
With their strong parasite resistance, high lamb survivability, heat tolerance,
excellent mothering instincts and good flocking, the Florida Cracker has much
to offer shepherds in the U.S.