What's in a name?
CVM Romeldale is not the easiest sheep name to remember. However, a quick history lesson provides a better understanding of the breed's curious sounding name along with its roots, which can be traced back to the Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) held in San Francisico in 1915.
The intent of the PPIE was to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, but San Francisco was eager to show off (and prove) its recovery from the devastating 1906 earthquake. The PPIE developed into a world's fair with individual country's showcasing specific venues.
The Japanese erected elaborate pagodas and a lily pond. The Italians built two imposing towers to reflect the architecture of the Italian Renaissance. And the New Zealanders came with their sheep! New Zealand Marsh Romney sheep to be exact.
A. T. Spencer, an American sheep farmer raising Rambouillets and who sold their wool to Pendleton Woolen Mill, apparently saw the robust rams from New Zealand and decided they would be perfect for improving the meat and fleece quality of his flock. He decided to buy them - all of them!
The result of crossing the Rambouillet with the Romney created a new breed: the Romeldale.
For the next 50 years, Spencer worked on perfecting the Romeldale. The animals were hearty, their fleece was fine and crimpy, and most importantly for commercial purposes, the animals were white.
However, by the early1960s, things began to change. Suddenly there was color where typically there was none - it was a mutant.
Glen Eichman, also a Romeldale breeder and who worked with Spencer, decided that rather than cull the mutant animal, perhaps they should change their breeding focus and actually try to breed for different color patterns. Eichman believed the color variation in fleeces would specifically appeal to to handspinners and the California Variegated Mutant was "born."
After 60 years of selective breeding the CVM Romeldale as developed now offers an endless array of color patterns. Typically, the breed has badger face markings, and fleece that becomes darker (not lighter) over time. But according to Marie Minnich, breeding CVM Romeldales is always a surprise. Each new lamb has a unique set of markings, the very distinction that would once made them worthless is now what makes them priceless.