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Dr. Lyle McNEal, Navajo Sheep Project, looking for lost sheep

“When I discovered the Churro sheep and realized that they correlated with the largest Native American tribe, and then I learned how the Navajo sheep had been mistreated, I thought, ‘I need to do this.'”   

Lyle McNeal

Originally the primary purpose of the NSP was to locate, identify, rescue and begin a scientific genetic process of saving the Navajo-Churro sheep from extinction. The Navajo-Churro were the first sheep to come to the New World by way of the Spanish conquerors from Spain in the 1540's. The sheep thrived on the semi-arid Southwest and became an integral part of Navajo culture, tradition and religion. 


Through the efforts of the NSP, seed stock to replenish flocks was developed by trading and placing sheep with Navajo, Hispanic, and Mexican Indian producers. This helped to revive the Navajo and Rio Grande weaving traditions. Re-introduction of the Navajo-Churro serves as the basis for economic, social, and cultural independence of the Navajo and Hispanic peoples in the region. Now in the 21st century, it is even more imperative that the cultural significance of these sheep remains prominent.

Currently, the Navajo Sheep Project is offering outreach education in sheep and grazing management, and the development of sheep and wool products throughout the Four Corners region of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.  Our goal in the next few years is to have a home base for research, education, outreach and culturally related animal husbandry programs and ceremonies for the four corners region as well as all areas of historical significance.



- To preserve and breed back the endangered Navajo-Churro sheep breed, through a systematic and scientific conservation program with the nucleus flock.


- To assist in the development of flocks on the Navajo Reservation, in Hispanic villages, and other key areas.


- To provide technical assistance to flock co-operators.


- To educate Navajo, Hispanic and other pastoralist growers to sustain themselves economically with their sheep and wool resources.


- To promote inter-cultural communication, understanding, and cooperation within the agricultural sector.

- Educate contemporary breeders to the importance of the Navajo-Churro and it's cultural significance past and present.

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The Navajo Sheep Project is a 501(C)3 non-profit that sustains itself off of grants and donations.

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