Emails coming into Texas Fish & Game to identify wildlife or answer various questions related to distribution of certain species are commonplace.
We welcome them and appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with our audience.
We recently got an email asking about white sheep seen in the Texas Hill Country.
“A couple of times I’ve been driving between Kerrville and Hunt and I’ve seen big rams with a beautiful white coast and big, thick horns. I’ve also seen some out towards Rocksprings. I’m familiar with mouflons. What are these mysterious (to me) white sheep? Are these Dall sheep like live in Alaska?”
These are not Dall sheep. There are no Dall sheep in Texas. The only truly wild sheep in Texas are desert bighorns which live in limited areas in the Trans Pecos. Aoudad are called “Barbary sheep” but they are actually a goat-like animal and of course they were imported from Africa.
There are three possibilities for these white sheep.
The first is an exotic sheep called the Texas Dall.
According to an article at a website called Trophy Hair Sheep of America, the Texas Dall’s origins began at the YO Ranch.
Texas Dalls were originally the result of a wayward Merino ram visiting Mouflon ewes on the Y.O. Ranch. The resulting white lambs/rams were first called “Snow White Rams” after the Y.O. Ranch foreman Bob Snow, who had procrastinated in removing the stray ram.
They were later named “Texas Dall” a much more marketable name, although it does sometimes cause confusion. These are not closely related to the Dall sheep of Alaska, which is a naturally-occurring, truly wild sheep.
Another possibility is the merino sheep.
Merinos are a domestic sheep with thick, wooly hair that can grow upwards of 250 pounds. Rams can grow massive horns and they are somewhat feral and hunted on Texas ranches.
A new addition and is the “snow urial”.
Exotic ranching pioneer Thompson Temple crossed a truly wild sheep called a urial with a Texas Dall and created a large, white breed with very large horns. Temple said one of his breeders has nearly 50-inch horns.
Hunters are starting to take these sheep as their numbers are starting to grow on private ranches.
That’s a long-winded answer to a question about white sheep in the Hill Country but as you can see there are multiple answers and we might add these animals are not only in the Hill Country but all over Texas and in other states as well.
Whether you appreciate exotic hunting or not, one must admit their presence makes driving Texas highways, especially in the Edward’s Plateau an interesting experience.
You never know what you might see.