The earliest record of this sheep variety is found in ancient Uruk (3000 BC) and Ur (2400 BC) on stone vessels and mosaics. Another early reference is found in the Bible (Leviticus 3:9) where a sacrificial offering is described which includes the fat tail of sheep.
These beautiful animals were specifically bred for the unique quality of the fat stored in the tail area. The fat, called Allyah was used extensively in medieval Arab and Persian cooking. Sheep tail fat is still used in cooking today although there is a reported decline with other oils increasing in popularity and ease of purchase.
Fat tailed sheep are very hardy and adaptable, able to withstand tough challenges of desert life. When feed is plentiful and parasites at bay, fat-tail sheep can be massive in size and growth. The carcass quality of these sheep is quite good with most of the fat concentrated in the tail area. The fat can account for 10lbs of weight on a 60lb carcass.
The most common fat-tailed breed in the US is the Karakul. There is a growing market in the US for these sheep as the ethnic population is the fastest growing sector of sheep consumers in North America.
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