The Jacob Sheep developed with very little human input. We call this a “primitive” breed. It is not very clear where these sheep originated from, but they sure found their way into my heart.
To start, I love the Jacob sheep for their unique appearance. They have sheep faces, 4 horns, and goat-like bodies. They have spotted fleeces in a variety of colors, as you can see from the picture below. Unlike many primitive breeds, Jacob fiber does not have guard hair (hair that is longer and coarser than the downy soft coat).
Many people dismiss Jacob fiber as “carpet quality”, but the fiber quality actually depends on the individual sheep. Some have medium and springy fiber with many crimp. Some have longer and coarser fiber with few crimp.
The lamb who graciously donated his fiber for my breed study was very mischievous so the fleece is quite saturated with vegetable matter (VM) and dirt. Jacob fiber is naturally high in lanolin, so his fleece felt a bit sticky and stiff to the touch. After a decent scouring (several times with hot water and cheap shampoo), the fleece came out soft and springy.
The staple length of this fleece is about 2 inches due to it being a lamb fleece. It is not hard to find adult Jacob fiber staple length closer to 3 inches.
Since there was a lot of VM and dirt in this fleece, I decided to comb the fiber to get it all out. Below, you can see the difference before and after combing.
One thing that also amused me as I was combing this fleece, is the different gradient of wool a single sheep can produce.
The crimpy, soft lamb fiber was a pleasure to spin. The fiber grabbed onto itself easily and required very little twist to hold itself together. The resulting yarn is soft, elastic, and fluffy. I would use this yarn to make next-to-skin garments such as tank top, neck warmers, or hats.
I also spun some commercial Jacob fiber. The commercial fiber is much coarser, with fewer crimp, but has almost 5 inches in staple length.
This fiber required more twist per inch to hold together. The resulting yarn is more sleek, stiff, and durable. I would use this yarn to make items that require more durability like mittens, jackets, or bags.
Jacob fiber takes dye clearly, and can be overdyed easily. Here is a skein of commercial Jacob fiber I spun and dyed.