National Geographic : 1919 Jul
SKIN VATS FOR CURING KARAKUL SKINS: BOKHARA Salt and barley meal are mixed with water to form the curing bath for the precious lambskins that will later form the fashionable fur collar. It takes two weeks to cure a skin before it can be rinsed and dried. Even after months of use, these sheepskin vats are still soft and pliable. retained, the observations and memory of the shepherds must be depended upon for knowledge of the grade of any individual. These Kirghiz sheep, fat rumped and tailless, and producing no fur, reach an extraordinary size, some of the largest weighing as much as 400 pounds. Their flesh is of excellent quality and remark ably free of the often objectionable "mut tony taste" of western sheep. An edible fat is the principal component of the huge rump, which weighs many pounds and, when cooked, is used as a substitute for butter. Although undoubtedly shepherd boys do have remarkable memories of a kind, which is probably the main stock of their intellectual equipment, and their knowl edge of the parentage of any particular Karakul is to some extent employed in the selection of breeders, my host stated that the breeding males and, to a less ex tent, the ewes to be bred are selected al most exclusively on the appearance of their fur at birth. The retention of an individual in the flock, especially a male, depends upon the value of the pelts of his progeny. There does not appear to be any well defined Karakul breed with precise stand ards, as among English and American sheep. The full-grown animal varies greatly in size, from quite small to me dium, with black face and legs. The fleece of the adult sheep is long and coarse, the outside usually gray, and those with the least underwool are preferred As a rule, the Karakul is inferior in con formation to the well-known breeds of English and American sheep. The male lambs, except those to be re served as breeding rams, are killed at birth or soon after and the pelts taken. If the pelts are not secured when the lambs are very young, the hair loses its curl and luster. Most of the ewe lambs of all grades are reserved for breeding purposes. Baby Karakul is obtained by the killing of old ewes just prior to the birth of what would probably be their last lambs, and especially if they are believed to carry twins. Some of the methods of obtaining lambs just before birth are quite revolt ing, such as running the ewes, at the proper stage of pregnancy, up and down steep inclines or actually beating them, in order to cause abortion. Karakul sheep are found almost ex clusively in the emirate of Bokhara, Rus sian Central Asia (Turkestan).