The American Sheep Industry Association considers the Gulf Coast Sheep one of the oldest breeds of sheep in North America. Little is known about the breed before the nineteenth century though they are known to have existed for centuries. It is believed that these sheep developed from sheep that the Spanish first brought to the southeastern United States in the 1500’s. As late as 1717, 2500 Spanish sheep were brought from Mexico City to Los Adaes near Natchitoches. Louisiana. Importations of French sheep and possibly other breeds may have mixed with the Spanish sheep. Descendants of these sheep developed largely through natural selection under humid semitropical range conditions in the Gulf Coast areas of East Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
Prior to World War II hundreds of thousands were allowed to free range in unimproved pastures, pineywoods and sugar cane fields. Twice a year they were rounded up for shearing and to mark lambs. After World War II the emphasis on high input agriculture caused the sheep industry to turn to breeds of sheep which were larger in size and produced more wool and meat. This caused the numbers of Gulf Coast sheep to decline dramatically endangering its very existence. Now, with renewed interest in low-input sustainable agriculture interest in Gulf Coast sheep is reviving. These sheep have been known by various names such as Florida Native, Louisiana Native, Common Sheep, Woods Sheep, Native Sheep or Pineywoods Sheep. Remnants of these sheep survive today and are known as Gulf Coast Sheep.