Black and white
Black and white lambs


Portland lambs
Photo courtesy of Beer Mill Farm


Romanov ram
Romanov ram



    Baa Baa Black Sheep


    White wool
    Most modern domesticated sheep grow white wool. This is because white wool is more desirable in the commercial market place because it can be dyed any color. However, sheep with white wool may have different color faces and legs.


    Natural-colored wool
    Handspinners, weavers, and other wool craftsmen often prefer "natural colored" wool. Wool is naturally produced in many beautiful colors: black, gray, silver, brown, red, and moorit. Some sheep have spotted fleeces.

    The Icelandic breed has the widest color range of any breed. Many fleeces have multiple colors. Sometimes, the inner and outer coats are different colors.


    Fleece inheritance
    It's not uncommon for black or colored lambs to be born in a white flock to white parents. However, in order for this to happen, both of the lamb's parents must be carrying a gene for color.

    The inheritance of fleece or coat color can be quite complicated. Different genes control what color the fleece will be, what pattern it will be, and whether the fleece will be solid or spotted.


    Color change
    The lambs of some breeds are born black or red and their fleeces lighten as they get older. When Tunis lambs are born, they are red or tan in color. As they grow, their fleeces gradually whiten, though they retain the red or tan color on their legs and face. Most Suffolk lambs are born black and will eventually grow white wool. Romanov lambs are born black, but lighten to a soft silver grey as they make their fleece, a mixture of hair and wool.


    Spotted sheep
    One of the most uniquely-colored breeds is the Jacob. The Jacob's fleece is described as white with black spots. The white wool grows out of white skin. The black wool growns out of black skin. The Jacob's spotted fleece is mentioned in the Bible. Prior to the 20th century, Jacob sheep were referred to as "Piebald" sheep.


    Get your markers in
    In the Old West, a few black sheep wandered the range. These colored animals were used as markers, one for every hundred sheep. The old timers counted the sheep and said, "Once your markers are in, your flock is in."

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Last updated 19-Nov-2013
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