Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to George Washington Jeffreys, 12 June 1817

To George Washington Jeffreys

Monticello. June 12. 17.


I have to acknolege your two letters of Apr. 8. & May 11. on the subject of the broad-tailed sheep. it is to be observed that there are different races of them, very distinct, & very different in merit, three of these have fallen under my observation. 1. those from the Cape of good hope with broad tails turned up like that of a nicked horse, long legs, light bodies & slight fleeces. 2. those from Algiers, of somewhat less stature and better form & size. and 3. those from Tunis, of low stature, round bodies, full fleeces of good quality, hardy, thrifty, always fat, and of high-flavored flesh. it must have been of these last that Genl Eaton brought to this country. I recieved myself a ram and ewe, brought in one of our vessels from Tunis direct. but the ewe would never breed, her massive tail never admitting the commerce of the ram. I have bred from the ram, in and in for ten years past with a different race, and have found that when a ewe gets to be about ⅞ pure blood, the same obstacle becomes so enlarged as to prevent further procreation. I continue this breed for the use of the table, and because the wool is as good as that of our ordinary sheep. I have Merinos in a separate situation: but their wool cannot be used for coarse purposes, and there is no demand for it here, which renders them less profitable than others. I have in still a distinct & distant situation, another Spanish breed, which, yielding to the broad-tail as to the table, is in other respects the most valuable of all. hardy, heavy-bodied, heavy-fleeced, and of a good staple for country service. it is the best cross for the broad-tailed breed.—this information, slight as it is, is all I am enabled to give you, and pretends to no other merit than that of proving to you the sentiments of respect & esteem of which I beg leave to assure you.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of James Baker to TJ, 23 Apr. 1817; mutilated at seal, with two words rewritten by TJ; at foot of text: “Mr George Washington Jeffreys”; endorsed by TJ.

TJ received a ram and ewe of the broadtail Barbary or Tunis variety in 1806 from Commodore John Rodgers on the latter’s return from Tripoli (Rodgers to TJ, 30 July 1806 [MHi]).

Index Entries

  • Eaton, William; and broad-tailed sheep search
  • Jeffreys, George Washington; and sheep search
  • Jeffreys, George Washington; letters to search
  • merino sheep; TJ raises search
  • Rodgers, John; and sheep for TJ search
  • sheep; broadtail search
  • sheep; Spanish search