Merino sheep have been used for centuries as reliable, sustainable sources of textiles. In the past few hundred years, New Zealand has emerged as a primary source for high-quality Merino wool yarn and garments. The history of Merino sheep in New Zealand is rich, and has led to a thriving industry that focuses on producing organic, comfortable products.
History of Merino Sheep
Merino sheep originated in Spain, and were the result of a mixture between Spanish and English flocks. Spain enjoyed a monopoly on the wool industry and Merino garments from approximately the 12th to 16th century. After this, Merino sheep were dispersed throughout the world, with industries growing out of Germany, Australia, and America.
Merinos Arrive in Australia
Sheep arrived in Australia in January 1788, but this initial flock soon dwindled down to less than half its size. It was not until the early 1800s that the Australian wool industry really began, and it started with John and Elizabeth MacArthur. While John MacArthur is now considered to have fathered the Merino industry in Australia, in reality his sheep had very little effect on the overall development of the Merino sheep in that country.
Other influential figures in Australia’s wool history include Eliza and John Furlong, John Murray, and the Peppin brothers. All of these people contributed greatly to the breeding and development of the Merino wool industry in the country.
Merinos Spread to New Zealand
New Zealand, Australia’s nearby island neighbor, has also found success with Merino wool products. In the 1800s, wool was New Zealand’s major agricultural export, and a huge component of the country’s economy. Today New Zealand’s Merino wool is known for its high quality as well as for being produced using environmentally sustainable practices and well-treated, healthy sheep. Because of this, organic, 100% Merino garments purchased from the country’s wool manufacturers are considered to be superior to many other types of wool products.
Merino wool in New Zealand has travelled a long and interesting path to become the highly-prized textile it is today. If you are on the market for wool products, it is well worth it to purchase from organic New Zealand producers.