The Katahdin is a haired sheep that was originally bred in Maine. It is named after Mt. Katahdin, the highest mountain in the state. The breed was thought of and bred at Piel Farm by a geneticist who wanted to use sheep to clear powerline trails instead of using spray chemicals or machines. The Katahdin is a meat breed that does not require shearing, which is preferred by many people. They can come in any coat color, which is an added plus for artisans who like a variety of colors. The woolly undercoat and hair shed out in the spring.
Katahdins were bred with a few main ideas (Maine ideas, if you like puns!). They have great flocking instincts and will stay together. This is handy when they are ranging near forests or in rural areas where predators may be present. They are hardy when it comes to weather and terrain. They have high fertility, which is necessary to keep producing lambs. They are also good mothers, making the care of the lambs fall on them instead of humans. Most notably, they do not require shearing since they produce hair and not wool. Some sheep tend to shed out better than others. Generally, a sheep that does not shed out well should not be part of the main breeding program. A sheep that does shed out well is one whose trait should be passed on to future generations.
The original breeds used to make the Katahdin included the African Hair Sheep, Tuni, Southdown, Hampshire, and Suffolk. It took 13 years before the breeding stock produced a sheep that the breeder thought was a good representation of his vision. Of his flock, he selected the best ewes and made them his original stock for the breed.
It is ironic that the sheep named after the tallest mountain in my home state also has ties to Vermont, where I lived for 4 years. Vermont held one of the first satellite flock of Katahdins once the breed was established in Maine! I also have another tie to the breed. My partner, Katie, worked for Heifer International. Heifer International took interest in the Katahdin breed and purchased some from Maine in the 1980s to establish a flock in Arkansas.