Did You Know? Incredible Karakul Facts

Karakul is an interesting creature to learn about

Karakul sheep have been raised as a domesticated breed in the Central Asia region. They were originally commonly found in Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. In fact, its name comes from the city of Karakul in Tajikistan, which translates to 'black lake'. A karakul is a fat-tailed sheep which suggests that these sheep have large hind legs and a large tail. These sheep are multipurpose, but their main use has been to raise them for their fur and coat. The astrakhan fur is especially well known which is made from the dark curly fleece of karakul lambs. Karakuls are prized in many cultures, especially in Central and East Asia, where they are of particular importance during certain preparations for Easter, or Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha. This sheep made its way to America in 1909, and its American breed population since then has changed quite a bit in comparison to its Central Asian ancestors.

Read on to the very end of the article to learn some fascinating facts about karakuls. For more facts on animals, read about bighorn sheep and sheep.


Fact File

What do they prey on?


What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

Rams: 176-220 lb (80-100 kg) Ewes: 110-154 lb (50-70 kg)

How long are they?

78 in (198 cm)

How tall are they?

Rams: 29-32 in (74-81 cm)

Ewes: 25-28 in (64-71 cm)

What do they look like?

Gray, brown, white, and black

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Fur trade and human consumption

What is their conservation status?

Not Evaluated

Where you'll find them



Central Asia





Scientific Name

Ovis aries





Karakul Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a karakul?

Karakul is a type of fat-tailed sheep. This means that their tails store a lot of fat and may even weigh between 8-10 lb (3.6-4.5 kg).

What class of animal does a karakul belong to?

Karakul sheep belong to the Mammalia class.

What is a karakul's skin like?

Their skin is thick, shiny, and has a curled black coat. The fur of karakuls is rather coarse and is reserved for outer garments, felting, and carpet production. Their coat of wool is often double-coated, in which case the undercoat has to be separated from the coarse guard hair by spinners.

Where does a karakul live?

They live in the desert and can survive in extreme climates. They have a special quality of storing fat in their tail.

What is a karakul's habitat?

Karakul sheep are well suited to sparse desert pastures, semi-nomadic development system, and climate of the Uzbek desert. There is now an American version of this breed called the American Karakul that thrives in those conditions too.

Who do karakuls live with?

Karakul is a domesticated species. They are known to live in a large herd with other karakul sheep.

How long does a karakul live?

Karakul's life span is, on average, about 22 years.

How do they reproduce?

Karakul breeds out of season and it is possible for breeders to get three separate births in the span of just two years. The average gestation period for ewes is about 150 days. The most common birth case is that of a single lamb, although twins are born every once in a while.

What is their conservation status?

The karakul breed of sheep is Not Evaluated by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) in their Red List. It must be noted that the American karakul breed is in fact listed as Threatened by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy's Conservation Priority List. Their registrations are fewer than 1,000 in the United States and fewer than 5,000 in the world.

Karakul Fun Facts

What does a karakul look like?

Karakuls are medium-sized sheep that have a fat tail, grayish white, or even black fur or wool. Karakuls are built strong and they stand tall, with long and narrow bodies. Their body peaks at the loin, and the rump slopes into the broadtail. Rams are much larger than ewes weighing at least 25 lb (11 kg) more. Rams are horned in contrast to ewes that are polled. Lambs have black fur or wool for a brief period of time, after which the fur or the wool loses its color, softness, and tightly wound curls. The lamb's pelt is a prized resource that is used to make items like astrakhan and the famous Karakul hat.

Karakuls originate from places like Bukhara in Uzbekistan.

What are karakuls raised for?

Karakul is a very useful breed that is raised primarily for its milk, meat, wool, and pelts. Their skin is especially desired when they are young as it is covered in a curled, glossy, and black coat. The wool of the adult karakul, on the other hand, is used in things like carpets.

How big is a karakul?

Karakul sizes differ by their gender. Rams stand at a height of about 25-27 in (64-69 cm), while ewes are a tad taller at 29-32 in (74-81 cm) tall. Their weight varies depending on the country they are bred in. American larakul is the heaviest with their ewes weighing up to 176 lb (80 kg), but in Turkey, they are smaller, weighing about 92 lb (42 kg). They are almost the same size as certain dog breeds like the St. Bernard.

How fast can a karakul run?

Karakul is a type of sheep and it may reach a speed of 20 mph (32 kph).

How much does a karakul weigh?

Karakul rams are medium-sized sheep that can weigh between 175-225 lb (80-102 kg), while ewes weigh in the range of 100-150 lb (45-68 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

A male karakul sheep is called a 'ram', while a female is called an 'ewe'. These terms are used for sheep of all species.

What would you call a baby Karakul?

A baby karakul, much like other species of sheep, is called a 'lamb'. These lambs are also referred to as Persian lambs and are desired for their pelts.

What do they eat?

Being herbivores, the diet of karakuls consists of grass, leaves, herbs, shoots, and twigs. They are a highly valuable part of Central Asian cuisine. Much like other sheep, karakul swallow much of their food without chewing it too much.

Are they smelly?

The smell of their fur is not very pleasant before processing. At times, this smell creates an unpleasant workplace for workers who separate the different colors of wool.

Would they make a good pet?

Karakuls are domesticated animals and are perhaps the oldest continuously bred sheep. This sheep has been raised since 1,400 BCE. It is thus no surprise that this animal, in some sense, is a pet. Although traditionally speaking, livestock has been considered more a resource than a companion. One thing to note is that they are used to living their lives outdoors in herds, and thus their lifestyle should not be altered too much.

Did you know...

Karakul fur has been renowned globally for so long that even King George V apparently had an astrakhan collar that was passed down to his son, the Duke of Windsor.

Karakul fashion garments made from astrakhan have made some waves in recent fashion news, being featured in a formula one-style jumpsuit. Astrakhan collar is also used in certain designs of women's suits, coats, and overcoats.

Which sheep produces better meat?

Karakuls have been raised for their meat in addition to milk and fur. However, this has never been their primary use as they provide lesser meat than any other sheep. In terms of taste, karakul meat is similar to the taste of venison, rather than mutton.

Tunis sheep, in comparison to karakul sheep, are more suited for consumption as their meat-to-bones ratio is more economical. Its meat is described as tender and flavorful without a strong mutton taste. However, being endangered, it may not be a wise decision to seek this meat.

What is karakul leather?

Karakul pelts may be processed further by tanning which results in the production of leather. This is rare as the pelts themselves are used as the final good in the lucrative fur trade.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including mountain goat, or badger.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Karakul coloring pages.



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