The Tunis is one of the oldest sheep breeds, said to have roamed the hills of Tunis and parts of Algeria in North Africa prior to the Christian era. The American Tunis evolved from a number of importations of fat-tailed sheep from Africa and the Middle East that were crossed with established European breeds to improve the breed’s meat characteristics.
The earliest documented importation occurred in 1799, a gift to the U.S. from the ruler of Tunisia and entrusted to the care of Judge Richard Peters of Pennsylvania. One of the largest advocates of the Tunis breed was Thomas Jefferson, who owned a fairly large flock. The breed could have been a major breed in this country if most of the southern flocks had not been destroyed during the Civil War.
Tunis are a unique looking breed with an unusual color of reddish tan hair covering their legs, faces and long pendulous ears and minor fat deposits over the dock area. The Tunis is classified as a “rare” breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.