YOU have often had to wear a merino frock and merino socks, I dare say; but perhaps you do not know that the fine soft wool of which these are made comes from Spain. It is more interesting to know that there is a tradition which says that the particular breed of sheep from which this wool is taken, came originally from England; their coats improved greatly in quality under the genial climate of Spain, and some people have supposed that the name merino is a corruption of trans marino, because they came from over the sea. Others derive it from the word Merino, an old title in use in the kingdom of Leon, meaning an overseer, and think that the sheep, having on their first arrival been given into the care of a Merino, or overseer, the name continued to be applied to the animals after it had ceased to denote the office.
Others, again, derive it from the word merino, which denotes the migration to which these sheep are subjected; for in the hot weather, when the grass of the lowlands gets withered up, they have to be driven into the mountain pastures.
There is some doubt as to the date of the importation of the sheep; but most probably they were taken as part of the dowry of Catherine, daughter of John of Gaunt, when she went to marry Don Enrique III., King of Leon and Castille.