Romanov Sheep are a breed of sheep from Russia, originally thought to be from the Volga Valley, near Moscow.
Romanov sheep are mainly bred for their meat, but they are also known for their strong wool. Almost all Romanovs are born pure black, then turning to grey as they mature, resulting in either naturally black or grey wool. The wool tends to be strong, and as a result is used for more heavy duty products, such as rugs. As befits Russian sheep, Romanovs are also particularly well known for their hardy natures, and are well equipped to survive in cold climates.
One of the most interesting features of this breed of sheep is its reproductive prowess. Whereas the average ewe has only one or two lambs at a time, Romanovs often have litters of between 2 and 5 lambs. They are also sexually active for longer than most breeds of sheep, often resulting in two litters per year, and become sexually mature at an earlier stage.
The Romanov Sheep, as you might have guessed, is named after the Romanov family, the former Russian royal family. They were first recognised as a breed in the 18th century.
The majority of Romanov Sheep today can still be found in Russia, but they have been exported to Germany, France and England. More recently, in 1980, 14 ewes and 4 rams were imported into Canada from France. They were imported specifically for breeding, and it is reported that every Romanov in Canada and the United States today is a descendant of those original imports.
Today, the number of Romanovs outside of Russia, and particularly in North America is so high that there is even an association dedicated to them – the North American Romanov Sheep Association, which was founded in 1992. NARSA holds an official register of Romanov sheep in North America, and runs a bulletin board which helps to put buyers in touch with Romanov breeders – from a quick browse its seems as though it is not only possible to buy Romanov sheep directly, but also to buy Romanov sheep semen for artificial insemination.