New Mexico Dahl Heritage hair sheep

Terrapatre

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Terra Patre sheep ranch established November 15, 1740 is devoted to rescuing New Mexico Dahl Heritage Sheep which were left in New Mexico by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1540. The sheep went feral over the past 480 years and are almost extinct. DNA samples at the UC Berkley genetics lab show that the New Mexico Dahl Heritage sheep are descendants of two ancient north Spanish breeds.
 

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Terrapatre

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By Glenn Goldberg

This the extraordinary story of a little known almost extinct journey of a hardy, persevering flock of hair sheep which were brought from Spain and West Africa by noble adventurist explorers seeking new lands and riches in the new world of the Americas, much like the men and women of the twentieth century United States landing on the moon and venturing out to the planet Mars and beyond. Both the explorers and livestock had to have leadership and ambition as there are always unknown dangers exploring new and unfamiliar places. This story is particularly interesting and poetic because it connects what has come to be the greatest free society in history, the United States of America to its very origins (April 22, 1540), dating almost a century before the pilgrims’ landing on America’s east coast in November of 1620. Analogous with so many modern Americans who are an amalgamation of many Native American tribes and European explorers, the story of these sheep also finds its origins in both Europe and the native sheep of North America.
These sheep we speak of are the New Mexico Dahl Heritage sheep native to the great and historic state of New Mexico, USA. Half of New Mexico Dahl Heritage sheep’s ancestors arrived in North America with the expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado y Lujan, on April 22, 1540, and the native Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep of North America, (see scientific verification of DNA cross publication in UC Berkley genetics lab) 2019. These crossbred sheep survived in the beginning covering many of the various high mountain ranges where they were abandoned or escaped ranging from Miller Peak and in the San Lorenzo Canyons of Southern New Mexico to the high peaks of Mount Walter, Wheeler, Truchas, and Venado, New Mexico, reduced and confined over time to the safety of large Spanish Land Grant areas where private hunters and the NM Game and Fish were unable to eliminate. As fate would have it, a sixteenth generation descendant of Coronado committed to preserving rich, unique and noble Spanish American history, culture, and traditions great-great+ grandson, Donald Antonio Chavez would find a mere six New Mexico Dahl sheep left to build and rescue from near extinction, beginning in the late twentieth century.
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (1510- September 22, 1554) was born into a noble family in Salamanca, Spain, in 1510, the son of Juan Vásquez de Coronado y Sosa de Ulloa and Isabel de Luján. Antonio de Mendoza was appointed viceroy of New Spain (Mexico) in 1535. Coronado accompanied Mendoza to America at age 25. Within three years of his arrival in Mexico City, Coronado suppressed a slave rebellion, pacified the Indians and married the wealthy Beatriz Estrada, daughter of the colonial treasurer. Beatriz de Estrada, was referred to as the Saint (la Santa), sister of Leonor de Estrada, ancestor of the de Alvarado family and daughter of Treasurer and Governor Alonso de Estrada y Hidalgo, Lord of Picón, and wife Marina Flores Gutiérrez de la Caballería, from a converso Jewish family. Coronado had eight children by her and inherited a large portion of a Mexican estate from Beatriz.
Coronado arrived in Mexico in 1535 and was chosen to lead a group of pioneers charged with reconnaissance of the then unknown territories to the north, suggested by rumors of the time to include major cities decorated with gold and jewels - the 'Seven Cities of Cibola'. Coronado was named governor of the province of Nueva Galicia in 1538, the Kingdom of Nueva Galicia (New Galicia, a province of New Spain located northwest of Mexico City and comprising the contemporary Mexican states of Jalisco, Sinaloa and Nayarit). A small area of the Coronado National Forest adjacent to the Mexican border is given over to the Coronado National Memorial, which commemorates the expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1540, the first known excursion of Europeans into the United States. Coronado entered what is now Arizona along the San Pedro River valley; a few miles east of the memorial, then continued north along a route marked today as the Coronado Trail.
In 1539, Mendoza sent an expedition in under Friar Marcos de Niza and Estevanico, more properly known as Estevan a black slave who had been shipwrecked off Florida with Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1528 and wandered through what later became Texas and northern Mexico before his rescue in 1536. Estevan was a survivor of the Narváez expedition, on an expedition north from Compostela, in the present state of Nayarit, toward New Mexico and reported on the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. When Marcos de Niza returned, he told about a city of vast wealth, a golden city called Cíbola, and that Estevan had been killed by the Zuni citizens of Cíbola. Fray Marcos, confident of the cities' existence by an Indian informant, and claimed to have seen them in the distance that appeared wealthy and as large as Mexico City.
Intrigued by these mendacious fantastic riches rumored to exist in the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola beyond New Spain's northern Coronado assembled another expedition with two components.
Some historians reason that the most famous journey ever made in search of treasures in the New World was led by the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado y Lujan. One component carried the bulk of the expedition's supplies, and traveled via the Guadalupe River under the leadership of Hernando de Alarcón. In 1540, Hernando de Alarcón was given command of three ships to carry supplies (including cattle, horses and burros from Spain and sheep from West Africa which are predominantly hair sheep) to Francisco Vásquez de Coronado's expedition in the present-day American Southwest. The other component traveled by land, along the trail Friar Marcos de Niza had used. Coronado and Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza invested large sums of their own money in the venture. Mendoza, Coronado's friend and fellow investor, appointed him as the commander of the expedition, with the mission to find the seven golden cities. This is the reason he pawned his wife's estates and was lent 70,000 more pesos.
Coronado set out from Compostela on February 23, 1540. His expedition included 336 to 400 Spanish soldiers, 1,300 to 2,000 Mexican Indian allies, from Aztec, Tarascan, and other tribes from central and western Mexico, four Franciscan monks (the most notable of whom were Juan de Padilla and the newly appointed provincial superior of the Franciscan order in the New World, Marcos de Niza), and several slaves, both natives and Africans, 1,500 animals, composed of horses, burros, mules, sheep, and cattle. There also were many other family members and servants. Coronado eventually found only Indian villages, but established Spain's later claim to the entire Southwest.
He introduced the first domesticated sheep and cattle into present day New Mexico, USA early in 1540. He crossed the present day Mexican border near Miller Peak, Huachuca Mountains, (Arizona) the highest and southernmost peak in the United States, site of the present day Coronado National Memorial. From there they headed northeast, over the White Mountains in the east of the state and then, after side trips to Hopi land and the Grand Canyon. According to John O. Baxter’s book, Las Carneradas his first drove of sheep reached Zuni in August 1540 then continued on into Kansas. The second flock arrived at Tiguex on the Rio Grande near present-day Bernalillo, NM where Coronado’s men had gone into winter quarters. According to the chronicler Pedro de Castañeda, the expedition included one thousand horses, five hundred cattle, and five thousand sheep…. Some of these animals made the journey to the Wichita villages in Kansas and back again to the Rio Grande where the army spent the second winter of 1541-1542. In the following spring, when the retreat to New Spain began, the sheep and cattle headed south toward home pastures, augmented by lambs and calves born en-route. Apparently, no one with the expedition saw a need to record how many animals were lost and how many were replaced by spring births. Having spent the fall months grazing in the High Sierras, the sheep were exposed to native Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep which managed to sire some of the spring lambs; (see published DNA verification by California genetics lab). At the time of the army’s departure, Fray Luis de Escalona decided to remain with some sheep at the Native American Indian Pueblo of Pecos. A small contingent with Fray Juan de Padilla, similarly, decided to keep a flock of sheep after returning to Quivira. Some of Fray Juan de Padilla’s contingent explored took a flock exploring north as far as present day Wyoming and Montana. They never returned and no references to sheep have heretofore occurred in records of the later sixteenth-century exploration made prior to Don Juan de Oñate’s colonization of 1598.
Baxter notes that following the arrival of Oñate’s colonists, the numbers of sheep between 1620 and 1670 significantly increased on the New Mexico range as the marketing connection for them was established down the Camino Real to Nueva Vizcaya. After a decade of drought, crop failure, constant Apache attacks, and bad political decisions, the Pueblos, superstitiously believing that the crop failure was due to their allowing the Spanish to colonize Nuevo Mejico, the Pueblos revolted, massacring men, women, and children, driving the Spanish south to present day El Paso area.
Governor Otermin made a reconnaissance trip up the Rio Grande late in 1681, finding that the Indians had retained herds of sheep abandoned by the fleeing Spanish the previous year. Cochiti and Santo Domingo Pueblos learned from informants that the natives had driven their stock into the rough country for protection. When Captain General Diego de Vargas made his reconquest in 1692-1693, he found that the Indians still had numbers of sheep. “During the April 1694 battle for the heights above Cochiti, Spanish forces captured nine hundred sheep.” Severe drought and calamitous worm infestations caused a second uprising in June 1696. The uprising took attention away from caring for the sheep and many were scattered to become feral, many others lost to the war. El Junta Gereral de Hacienda (supreme council for fiscal affairs) took measures to reinforce Vargas’ forces. This included another infusion of livestock arriving in Santa Fe in April 1697; 4,000 ewes, 170 goats, 500 cows, and 150 bulls for redistribution. J. Baxter points out that “veterans of the recent campaigns, including such heroes as Captains Diego Arias de Quiros, Fernando Duran y Chavez, and Jacinto Pelaez, (both men were ten generation great-grandfathers of Donald Chavez, the 20th century rescuer of Coronado’s hair sheep), received no special favors. Duran y Chaves, who had carried the royal standard into Santa Fe after the Pueblo evacuation, took the thirty-eight ewes cut out for him and returned to his ancestral lands at Bernalillo, where he and his neighbors already tended sizable flocks. In later years, his descendants distinguished themselves as soldiers, politicians, and merchants.” In this genre, great-grandson x 16, Donald A. Chavez y Gilbert distinguished himself as the only rancher and student of history to connect the dots and recognize the feral sheep-X-Bighorn phenotype of Coronado’s lost sheep, then begin the rescuing of these almost extinct New Mexico Dahl Heritage sheep before they were lost forever.

Coronado followed the Sinaloan coast northward, keeping the Sea of Cortez to his left until he reached the northernmost post of New Galicia, San Miguel de Culiacán, about March 28, 1540, whereupon he rested his expedition before the expedition entered what is now the United States on April 22, 1540, along the San Pedro River at the southern end of the Huachuca Mountains. Coronado National Memorial in southern Arizona commemorates this event. Coronado and his advance party of Spanish cavalry traveled north on today's Arizona-New Mexico state line and from the headwaters of the Little Colorado he continued on until he came to the Zuni River and the Zuni pueblo of Hawikuh, in western New Mexico, but found no great wealth or treasure. It has been well documented that Coronado lost many of the domesticated livestock along the various scouting excursions but it is uncertain where and how Coronado and his expeditionaries lost so many of the 1,500 animals, composed of horses, burros, sheep, and cattle that they had brought from Mexico. However, by that point in their travels (on that particular excursion) the members of the expedition were almost starving and demanded entrance into the village of Hawikuh. The natives refused, denying the expedition entrance to the village. Coronado attacked the Zunis and the resultant skirmish constituted the extent of what can be called the Spanish "Conquest of Cíbola." Coronado was injured and during the interim weeks that the expedition stayed at Zuni, he sent out several scouting expeditions. A likely explanation is that food animals were divided in more or less equal parts and assigned to each sub set scouting contingent because most of the NM Dahl sheep feral in remote high NM and Colorado Sierras were reported to have survived (four hundred plus years) in the purlieus to the south in Miller Peak, Huachuca mountains, north to parcels of Spanish Land Grant ranches in the purlieus of Mount Walter, Taos and mountain range, Fisher’s Peak/Spanish Peaks and surrounding magmatic and igneous dyke high country of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These were areas within roaming range from Coronado’s most northerly documented expeditions where Coronado wintered on two occasions in Santa Fe and northern New Mexico areas. The Spanish documented at least one instance where the Turk Indian guide’s intention seems to have been to lead Coronado astray and hope that he got lost in the wilderness; a likely place to lose livestock. There is a greater possibility that livestock such as sheep and cattle were lost in several areas but the chances of surviving predators were greatest above 11,000 feet where predators are few and far between. Hardy native hair sheep like wild Rocky Mountain Bighorn are at home climbing onto inaccessible rocky outcroppings where cattle cannot ascend nor compete for graze and browse. Over the course of almost five hundred years these native sheep no doubt intermingled upon the arrival of Coronado’s feral hair sheep.
Coronado took notice of the forage and food situation along the trail, and reported that the land along the route would not be able to support a large contingent of soldiers and animals so Coronado decided to divide his expedition into small groups and time their departures so that grazing lands and water holes along the trail could recover. At intervals along the trail, Coronado ordered established camps and garrisoned soldiers to keep the supply route open.
After "leaving Culiacan on April 22, Coronado followed the coast, "bearing off to the left," as Mota Padilla says, by an extremely rough way, to the Sinaloa, the configuration of the country made it necessary to follow up the valley of this stream until he could find a passage across the mountains to the course of the Yaquimi. He traveled alongside this stream for some distance, then crossed to Sonora river. The Sonora was followed nearly to its source before a pass was discovered. On the southern side of the mountains he found a stream he called the Nexpa, which may have been either the Santa Cruz or the Pedro of modern maps. The party followed down this river valley until they reached the edge of the wilderness, where, as Friar Marcos had described it to them, they found Chichilticalli. Chichilticalli is in southern Arizona in the Sulfur Springs Valley, within the bend of the Dos Cabeza and Chiricahua Mountains. This fits the chronicle of Laus Deo description, which reports that "at Chichilticalli the country changes its character again and the spiky vegetation ceases. The reason is that . . . the mountain chain changes its direction at the same time that the coast does. Here they had to cross and pass the mountains in order to get into the level country." There he met a crushing disappointment. Cíbola was nothing like the great golden city that Marcos had described. Instead, it was just a complex of simple pueblos constructed by the Zuni Indians. The soldiers were upset with Marcos for his deceitful stories, so Coronado sent him back to Mexico in disgrace.
Coronado sent out scouting parties that ranged all the way to the Colorado River on the present border between California and Arizona. García López de Cárdenas (pictured right) and his party became the first Europeans to view the Grand Canyon (in modern Arizona). Another found more pueblos in a fertile area of the Rio Grande valley at Kuana (near modern Santa Fe), where the expedition wintered.
In the spring of 1541, the force moved into Palo Duro Canyon in present-day Texas, where Coronado left most of his men and proceeded north with 30 horsemen to another supposedly fabulously wealthy country, Quivira (Kansas), only to find a Wichita Indian village.
After spending a second winter in Kuana near Santa Fe and realizing that the Golden Cities of Cibola were only the Zuñi, Hopi and Pueblo Indian villages of present- day Arizona and New Mexico, the expedition started homeward.
According to the chronicler Castañeda in March 1542 Coronado returned to New Mexico from Quivira and was badly injured in a fall from his horse "after the winter was over," During a long convalescence, he and his expeditionaries decided to return to Mexico. Coronado and his expedition departed New Mexico in early April 1542, leaving behind two friars. Coronado led only about 100 men into Mexico City, while the remainder straggled in over the following months each with a few sheep of unknown fates. He reported his disappointing findings to Mendoza, who turned on his old protégé and branded the expedition an abject failure. Although he remained governor of Nueva Galicia until 1544, Coronado remained in Mexico City with his wife and six children, Maria Vázquez De Coronado Y Estrada, 1520 - ?, Luisa Coronado Vazquez Estrada De La Caballeria, 1525 - ?, Geronima Vazquez De Coronado Estrada, 1536 – 1537, Luisa De Estrada, 1525 - ?, Isabel Vásquez De Coronado Y Luján Estrada, 1528 - ?, Juan Vazquez De Coronado Estrada, 1540 – 1600 where he died of an infectious disease on July 21, 1554.

Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco (1495 – July 21, 1552) was the first viceroy of New Spain, serving from April 17, 1535 to November 25, 1550, and the second viceroy of Peru, from September 23, 1551, to July 21, 1552.

Fast forward four hundred forty years to sheep rancher and rescuer of New Mexico Dahl Heritage sheep rancher Donald Antonio Chavez y Gilbert in the twentieth century following a continuous long line of ranchers, Donald Chavez acquired the last remaining parcels of his mother’s line of the Belen Land Grant. Diego de Torres, (Chavez’) eight generation great grandfather of Donald Chavez petitioned the King of Spain in 1740 for the Belen Land Grant which was awarded in 1742. The original farm was over 2000 acres and over time and inheritances was reduced to less than 20 acres in 1980.

Chavez, desiring to continue the traditions of his ancestors using his knowledge of New Mexico history, culture, and traditions began rescuing the few remaining New Mexico Dahl animals on his Belen farm.

New Mexico State Historian, Dr. Rick Hendricks published an Heirloom article in Edible Magazine on the history and future of two hardy Heritage Breeds of NM Livestock with great potential as a future food source using desert New Mexico lands not suitable for current markets of cattle and sheep which are not as hardy; see page 62. One of those hardy Heritage breeds is the New Mexico Dahl Sheep, the foundation herd which is based in Belen, NM.
 

Baymule

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What a fabulous family history you have. Intertwined with the New Mexico Dahl Sheep and now you are the keeper of the sheep. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the history of this breed and that of your family.
 

farmerjan

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I have not had time to go through and reread this long post as I want to absorb it better. The White Texas Dahl sheep my DS has are very much like your NM ones... very similar heads etc. Might have some of the same blood????
 

SageHill

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Wow - that's quite a history. I need to reread it with a cup of coffee.
Makes me wonder if when I've seen Big Horn Sheep in Anza Borrego, and also NV if perhaps I was actually seeing these guys. I should dig out those photos from years ago.
 
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