Gulf Coast sheep descended from various Spanish flocks brought to the New World by explorers and settlers beginning in the 1500s. They were shaped primarily by natural selection, adapting to the heat and humidity of the Southeastern United States.
Gulf Coast sheep vary in coloration and size. Most are horned. What is consistent among the breed is their exquisite adaptation to environments that are generally difficult for the ovine species. They have an extended breeding season, which means they lamb almost year round. Gulf Coast ewes make excellent mothers, most often pasture-lambing without assistance. Gulf Coast sheep are also well known for their inherent resistance to internal parasites and to foot rot. This natural protection from common afflictions of sheep makes them an important breed to preserve.
The Gulf Coast Native is growing in popularity for its use in crossbreeding programs. The breed’s remarkable genetic resistance to internal parasites is passed on to a certain extent to its cross-bred offspring. Breeders are crossing Gulf Coast with meat-production breeds, such as the Dorper or Katahdin, resulting in fast-growing lambs with reduced susceptibility to parasites. However, the Gulf Coast breed is still critically endangered. It is important, therefore, to maintain a large enough purebred population of these sheep so as not to lose them all to hybridization.