Columbia sheep were developed by the United States Department of Agriculture as a true breeding type to replace cross breeding on the range.
In 1912, rams of the long wool breeds were crossed with high quality Rambouillet ewes to produce large ewes yielding more pounds of wool and more pounds of lamb. The first cross Lincoln-Rambouillet line was the most promising of all crosses. The Bureau of Animal Industry maintained this line and by intensive breeding and selection produced a true breeding strain with characteristics of the superior crossbred line. The original cross was made at Laramie, Wyoming, and the Foundation of the Government Columbia flock was moved to the Sheep Experiment Station at Dubois, Idaho, in 1918. The result was larger ewes that had superior mothering instincts that produced more pounds of wool and larger lambs that meant more profit for those that raised Columbias.
The outstanding record made by Columbia's on the western ranges has created an interest among sheep people of other areas. While they were originally developed for range conditions, they have proved admirably adaptable to the lush grasses and farm flock management of the middle west, east, north and south.
The mature Columbia rams weigh between 250 and 350 pounds and the females weigh 150 to 250 pounds. The average fleece weight of the ewes ranges from 10 to 16 pounds (4.5-7.3 kg) with a yield of 45 to 55%. The staple length of the wool ranges from 3.5 to 5 inches (9-13 cm). The wool is classified as medium wool with a numeric count of 50's-60's. The wool varies from 31.0 to 24.0 microns.