Sheep numbers in 1924

Thude Sheep. Picture courtesy of Betty Thude

A look at the sheep industry at the close of 1924.

  • As of Dec. 28,1924, there were 588,443 sheep in the state.* This is significantly lower than in 1916 when the Arizona Republic reported nearly two million sheep in the state!
  • 40% of all sheep in the state were found in Coconino County. Sheep were listed as the second most valuable industry in the county after lumbering. There were 239,608 sheep in Coconino County with a value of $1.5 million.
  • The value per head of sheep was $6 in Coconino County, but only $5.50 per head in the rest of the state.
  • Yavapai and Apache counties saw a slight increase in sheep numbers whereas Maricopa and Cochise counties saw a big decrease.
  • The total value of the sheep in Arizona was placed at $3,402,022, significantly less than the ten million dollars in 1916, just 8 years previously.  The article stated that the sheep numbers have been decreasing every year since the highest numbers during WWI.  There was a 3% decrease in total numbers between 1923 to 1924.

The newspaper reported, “Prices for both wool and lambs have been sufficiently large to net producers a fair margin of profit. In fact, a big majority of the sheep men of the state have entirely recovered from the lean years immediately following the war and except for a decrease in the size of flocks, are in better condition now than for a period of many years.

CountyCommon SheepBucks
Santa Cruz00

*From the above numbers and verifying the newspaper’s comments, the total population of sheep would have been 599,027 (588,433+10,594).

2 My number was used as there is a discrepancy of 9 when adding the column of common sheep

3 While the article said there were 10,845 bucks the number does not agree when adding the column, a difference of 251.


In the November 17, 1916, Arizona Republic, an article appeared that stated that the sheep industry in the state at that time was a ten-million-dollar industry. It further stated that the industry was well represented at the fair that year. New sheep barns had been built the author of the article stated and at their entrance, a sign read “Arizona’s $10,000,000 industry”. Judging and prize money was complementing the value of the industry. A sheep specialist had been hired from out of state to judge the sheep for the first time. While not germane to the topic, Prof. J. M. Jones came from College Station, Texas, home to Texas A&M University, my alumna school.

Two sheep companies were big winners – Grand Canyon Sheep Company and Sanford Sheep Company.

Prizes included:

  • A “mammoth silver cup” for the best pen of ten Ramboillet rams – won by Grand Canyon Sheep Company. Ramboillets were the most common sheep in Arizona because of their fine wool. Grand Canyon won both 1st and 2nd. place. The silver cup was valued at $50. 3rd place for best pen of ten Ramboillets went to J. F. Daggs.
  • Silver cup award for best pen of ten Hampshires went to Sanford Sheep Company.
  • Best registered Rambouillet ram won 1st, 2nd and 3rd place and belonged to J. F. Daggs from Williams.
  • Registered Shrophire won 1st place and belonged to University of Arizona.
  • Champion registered Rambouillet went to J. F. Daggs.
  • Range bred Rambouillets won 1st and 2nd – Grand Canyon Sheep Co.
  • Yearling ram 1st and 2nd – Grand Canyon Sheep Co.; J. F. Daggs won 3rd place
  • Yearling ewes all awards went to Grand Canyon Sheep Co as did the categories of ewe lamb, champion ram and ewe.
  • Hampshire ram – Sanford Sheep Co. and Hampshire ewe and flock.
  • Champion Hampshire ram and ewe – Sanford Sheep Co.
  • Persian sheep ram and ewe – James Bemis, Phoenix.
  • Tunis ewe – James Bemis, Phoenix.
  • Lincoln flock – J. M. Horne, Mesa.
  • A pen of four lambs best adapted to the Valley conditions was awarded to James Bemis for his Persian cross bred. 

Men or sheep outfits who showed sheep included the Daggs (Flagstaff), Sanford Sheep Co. (Seligman), James Bemis showing Persians and Tunis crossbreeds. Sanford showed black faced sheep.

The article stated that the judge, Prof. Jones, was well acquainted with a range of sheep and gave valuable information to the sheep men.

An interesting fact stated at the beginning of the article, was that the sheep population in the state was increasing yearly and was nearly 2 million head.  I would like to be able to verify the 2 million number as I don’t think we ever reached more than 1.5 million.

Oh, how I would love to find any of the silver cups won for the Rambouillet or Hampshires mentioned in this article. It would be interesting to know what years were they used as prizes, too Does anyone have one in their attic? Or is there one in a back room of a museum? 

Yes Virginia, there are black sheep!

I get some crazy questions during my presentations, but this was really out there. It was a question with an explanation. Are there black sheep? The woman went on to say that a docent at the Heard Museum was describing a Navajo rug. On the rug was a black sheep which he promptly told those in attendance, that there were no such things as black sheep and the Navajo who had woven the rug dyed the wool black. Please note, Virginia, yes there are black sheep! Navajo-Churro sheep come in a variety of colors, including blue, black, brown, etc. And there are all black sheep here in Arizona. I added pictures to prove my point.

A variety of colors in Navajo Churro Sheep. Notice the black sheep!
Another non-white Navajo-Churro Sheep.
Black sheep among a flock of white! At one time, sheep raisers would have one black sheep for every 100 white sheep, but that is not the case anymore, at least in Arizona.

A Blast of a Day!

Here is what happens when you are asked to talk to a group of history buffs. I was asked to give a thirty to forty minute presentation on the sheep industry for The First Families of Arizona today in Phoenix. The room was pretty full with close to a hundred people attending. Well, I hardly got in the door before John was telling me about the Lockett family and their involvement in the sheep industry. He had copies of several old newspaper articles about the Lockett family and gave me the name and date of a newspaper with a story on the history of the sheep history up to 1929. In the article, he said there was a list of all sheep ranchers at the time. Oh, research here I come!

Then, after arriving home I get a call from a man about three hours after the presentation. His wife had attended the event and bought my book. He had read it from cover to cover; wow, a real history buff! He said he enjoyed the book and he also gave me more information! What a great day.

Can’t wait to get to research all that I learned and I thought I was going to educate them!