American Tunis

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The American Tunis or Tunis is an endangered American breed of fat-tailed sheep. It derives from Tunisian Barbarin sheep imported to the United States from Tunisia in 1799.[2] It is raised primarily for meat.[2]

American Tunis
American Tunis 2008.jpg
Conservation statusFAO (2007): endangered[1]:126
Livestock Conservancy: watch
Other namesTunis
Country of originUnited States
StandardNational Tunis Sheep Registry
Usemeat, wool
  • Male:
    91 kg[2]
  • Female:
    66 kg[2]
Wool colorwhite
Face colorred
Horn statushornless in both sexes


In 1799, the Bey of Tunis, Hammuda ibn Ali, sent ten Tunisian Barbarin sheep as a gift to George Washington.[3][4]:155 Two reached the Belmont estate of Richard Peters in Pennsylvania.[3] Peters lent his Tunis rams for breeding and the breed gradually spread. It was much written about, and is documented in the writings of several noted figures of the time, among them John Adams, George Washington Custis and Thomas Jefferson, and later Charles Roundtree, who in the early twentieth century was secretary of the American Tunis Sheep Breeders Association.[3][5]:10 The Tunis became the principal meat breed of the Mid-Atlantic and Upper South regions, but virtually disappeared during the American Civil War.[3][6] After the Civil War, the Tunis was raised mostly in New England and in the Great Lakes region.[3] In the late nineteenth century some were moved to Indiana, where there was some cross-breeding with Southdown stock. A breeders' association, the American Tunis Sheep Breeders Association, was constituted in 1896.[4]:156

The Tunis is listed as "watch" on the watchlist of the Livestock Conservancy.[3] Tunis sheep have been added to the Slow Food Ark of Taste.[6]


  1. ^ Barbara Rischkowsky, D. Pilling (eds.) (2007). List of breeds documented in the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources, annex to The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9789251057629. Accessed July 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Tunis/United States of America. Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed July 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Tunis Sheep. The Livestock Conservancy. Accessed July 2017.
  4. ^ a b Levi Jackson Horlacher (1927). Sheep Production. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
  5. ^ F.R. Marshall (2 May 1914). Breeds of Sheep for the Farm. Farmers' Bulletin 576. Washington: Government Printing Office.
  6. ^ a b Tunis Sheep. Slow Food USA. Accessed July 2017.