Afrino ram

Afrino ram and ewes
Images courtesy of Clynton Collett
& Family Superior Genetics

Afrino ewes

Altay ram

Altay ram
Image source: ConSDABI

American Blackbelly ram
American Blackbelly ram
Image courtesy of Chris
Buchanan, Decatur, Alabama

Apennine ram
Apennine ram
Image courtesy of
EAAP-Animal Genetic Bank

Aragonesa ram
Image courtesy of Universidad de Córdoba

Arapawa sheep

Arapawa Island sheep
Images courtesy of Bad Ass Bees

Arapawa Island sheep

Assaf sheep
Image Source: La Herdade do Matinho

Rams in chute

Australian Merinos

Merino ewe and lamb

Awassi ram

Awassi rams in Kazakhstan

Horny boys

Avranchin ram
Avranchin ram
Image source: French Livestock Breeds

Babydoll Southdown
Babydoll Southdown
Image courtesy of Moss Creek Farm

Badger Face Welsh Mountain ewe

Badger Face Welsh Mountain
Images courtesy of Meads Flock

Badger Face Welsh Mountain ram (Torddu)

Balwen Welsh Mountain

Images courtesy of Balwen
Welsh Mountain Sheep Society

Barbados Blackbelly ewes
Barbados Blackbelly ewes

Barbados Blackbelly lambs
Barbados Blackbelly lambs

Barki lamb
Barki lamb in Egypt

Bavarian Forest
Bavarian Forest
Image courtesy of
EAAP-Animal Genetic Bank

Image Source:


    Sheep Breeds A - Ba

  • Afrino

    During the late 1960's, a request was made to the Department of Agriculture by the wool industry, via the South African Agricultural Union, to develop a white-wooled breed for extensive sheep grazing areas. In 1976, it was evident that the crossing of 25 percent Merino, 25 percent Ronderib Afrikaner, and 50 percent South African Mutton Merino best fullfilled the requirements set for the new breed.

    It was decided to retain only this cross for further upgrading and development of the breed known today as the Afrino. Eighty percent of the income from Afrino sheep is generated through meat production and 20 percent through wool production. The Afrino produces Merino-type wool, with a fiber diameter ranging from 19 to 22 microns.

    Breed category: fine wool, dual-purpose

    Distribution: South Africa, Australia

    Go to Afrino Sheep Breeders' Society=>

  • Altay

    The Altay originated in the regions of China typified by dry, cold mountain basins. They belong to the Kazakh group of sheep which are found in the desert and mountainous areas in west Xinjiang. Altay belong to the fat-rumped, carpet wool type. They gradually formed the fat tail (or rump) as a biological characteristic. The tail (or rump) weighs about 15 pounds (7 kg).

    Due to the sharp seasonal contrast in forage availability in these pastorial areas, the sheep tend to deposit a large amount of fat in the body in order to meet nutritional demands during the winter and spring. In addition, the herdsmen working under these climatic conditions need fat as the main source of energy supply and so have selected sheep with high fat deposits.

    Breed category: fat-rump, carpet wool, meat

    Distribution: China

  • American Blackbelly

    The American Blackbelly is a composite breed resulting from the crossing of Barbados Blackbelly on the Mouflon and Rambouillet breeds. As the name implies, the underbelly of the American Blackbelly is black, as is the inside of the legs, the back part of the thighs, and the hair inside the ears. Two black facial barbs extend down the muzzle medial to the eye, giving the breed an exotic appearance.

    Through selective breeding, the American Blackbelly has retained the coloration of its Barbados Blackbelly parent stock, but can be easily distinguished by the presence of horns on the rams. It is harder to identify which breed a ewe represents because American Blackbelly females may be polled, scurred, or horned, with the majority being polled. Because this sheep is popular with the trophy hunting markets, "trophy racks" are heavily selected for in American Blackbelly breeding stock.

    The American Blackbelly is a hair sheep, although in some areas of the U.S., American Blackbelly may develop a winter undercoat of fine wool fiber that is shed in the spring. The American Blackbelly is known for its vitality, thrift, easy lambing, and lean carcass. [text provided by Carol Elkins]

    Breed category: hair

    Distribution: North America

    Go to Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Association International=>
    Go to United Horned Hair Sheep Association =>

  • Apennine

    The Apennine breed was founded in the 1970's in central Italy, mainly in the Toscana, Emilia, Umbria, Arche, and Abruzzi regions of Italy; crossbreeding the local breed with other Italian or exotic breeds such as Bergamasca and Ile-de-France. It is a medium wool breed kept primarily for meat production. It is polled and has semi-lopped ears.

    The breed is reared in small or medium size flocks that usually are not the only economic source of the farm. There are an estimated 250,000 head, spread out over central and southern Italy.

    Breed category: meat, medium wool

    Distribution: Italy

  • Aragonesa

    The Rasa Aragonesa sheep is the second most important Spanish breed after the Merino breed. Spanish sheep breeds of medium quality wool are considered to have originated from the crossbreeding of fine-wool strains (Merino) and those with coarse wool (Churra and Lacha), though this viewpoint is overly simplistic.

    The Rasa Aragonesa breed, which owes its name to the region where it is of most importance, as well as to the length of its wool ("rasa" = threadbare), is raised mainly for its meat. Among the outstanding qualities of the Rasa Aragonesa are its high degree of ruggedness, gregarious instinct, pasturing ability, and adaptability to the harsh environment in which it is raised.

    Breed category: dual-purpose, medium wool

    Distribution: Spain, Europe

    Go to Raza Rasa Aragonesa=>

  • Arapawa (Arapawa Island)

    The most probable origin for the Arapawa feral sheep is that they are escapees of a flock of mainly Merino origin, known to have been introduced in 1867, the original stock having undoubtedly come from Australia. It is possible that they were introduced earlier by whalers who were the first European occupants of the Island. They are considered a rare and endangered breed. Arapawas are rather prehistoric-looking wild sheep.

    They are not large sheep, being rather lean and light-boned. Their bulky fleece is of Merino-like fineness with a natural tendency to be shed, as occurs in most wild sheep.There are still some Arapawa sheep on the island and several thousand are now found in flocks throughout New Zealand.

    Breed category: rare, feral

    Distribution: New Zealand

    Go to Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand=>

  • Assaf
    The Assaf sheep is the result of crossbreeding the Awassi and East Friesian Milk sheep. In 1955, researchers of the Israeli Agricultural Research Organization (A.R.O) started this project aiming to improve the fecundity of the Awassi sheep. A combination of 3/8 East Friesian and 5/8 Awassi blood emerged as the best cross.

    Most dairy sheep breeders in Israel have adopted the Assaf, which is considered not only a top quality dairy sheep and excellent mutton producer, but is also well-adapted to semi-extensive to extensive production systems. Under Israeli conditions, in which ewes have approximately 3 lambings in 2 years, the annual milk yield is 450 liters. The demand for Assaf sheep is increasing every year. They have been exported to Spain, Portugal, Chile and Peru.

    Breed categories: dual-purpose (dairy and meat)

    Distribution: worldwide

  • Australian Merino

    More than 80 percent of all Australian sheep are pure Merino, with most of the remainder at least part Merino blood. Merino is grown primarily for its heavy fleeces of fine wool. Although the Australian Merino derives its name and basic appearance from the Spanish breed, it is a distinct breed in its own right, developed and adapted in Australia to the specific conditions of this country. Merino sheep were brought to Australia from the Cape Colony, England, Saxony (South East Germany), France, and America.

    The Australian Merino is not a single homogenous breed but a number of strains of sheep all of which, regardless of their origins, are uniquely Australian. The major factor determining the Merino’s development has been the requirement for environmental suitability.

    Merino Strains
    The four basic strains of Australian Merino are Peppin, Saxon, South Australian, and Spanish. The Peppin Merino is suited to the harsher conditions of inland Australia. Its heavy fleece falls in the mid-range of Merino wool qualities. As many as 70 percent of today's Australian Merinos are said to be directly descended from the Peppin-developed sheep. The South Australian Merino is suited to semi-arid conditions of 250 mm (10 in.) of rain or less and is found in South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.

    The wool from these sheep is at the strongest (i.e. thickest in fiber diameter) end of the range of Merino wool types. The Saxon Merino is without peer in the quality of wool produced. It is best suited to cool to warm conditions with 500 mm (20 in.) or more of rainfall and is found in the highlands of Tasmania, the cooler areas of Victoria, and the tablelands of New South Wales. Though relatively few in number, there is a distinct strain of the Australian Merino that is directly descended from Merino sheep of "Spanish" blood imported into the colony.

    Other Types of Merinos in Australia
    The development of the Australian Poll Merino is relatively new. Polled rams have been selected and mated to Merino ewes and selection continued for the quality of pollness. The result is a pure Merino without horns.The Fonthill Merino was developed in the 1950's by crossing American-bred Rambouillet-Merino rams with a fine-wool Saxon strain of Merino. The second most populous breed of sheep in Australia is the ewe progeny from Border Leicester rams mated to Merino ewes: the "Border/Merino."

    Breed categories: fine wool

    Distribution: worldwide

    Go to Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders=>

    Go to New Zealand Stud Merino Breeders=>


  • Awassi

    The Awassi evolved as a nomadic sheep breed through centuries of natural and selective breeding to become the highest milk producing breed in the Middle East. The breed is of the Near Eastern fat-tailed type. The average Awassi ewe has single lactations over 300 liters (650 pounds) per 210-day lactation, and it is not uncommon for outstanding females to have 210 day lactations above 750 liters (1,625 lbs).

    As a comparison, the lactation of the average U.S. sheep breed is about 100 to 200 pounds per lactation. The breed also has the advantage of natural hardiness and grazing ability. The males are horned and the females are usually polled. The fleece is mostly carpet type with a varying degree of hair.

    Breed categories: dairy, fat-tailed, carpet wool

    Distribution: worldwide

  • Avranchin

    The Avranchin is a grassland breed, hardy and well adapted to the ocean climate, usually living outdoors in small flocks. It is one of the most prolific French breeds. With a large or medium-sized frame, it produces lambs of good butchering quality, with very fine textured meat.

    The selection of the Avranchin sheep breed tends towards the maintenance of high prolificacy (the optimum sought is the ewe which regularly produces twins at each lambing), and the improvement of the milk value of the dams. Rams for breeding are chosen according to their conformation and the prolificacy and milk value indexes of their dam.

    Breed categories: meat

    Distribution: Europe

  • (Olde English) Babydoll Southdown

    The Olde English Babydoll Southdown is a miniature variety of the Southdown breed. The Southdown breed of sheep originated in the Southdown hills of Sussex County, England. It is one of the oldest purebred sheep breeds in the world. Southdowns were imported to the United States in the early 1800's. The 1960's saw increased importation of the larger New Zealand Southdown to upscale the American Southdown.

    Around 1990, small flocks of the original smaller Southdowns were rediscovered and labeled Olde English Babydoll Miniature Sheep to differentiate them from the larger modern breed. This miniature sheep is only 19 to 23 inches tall. Babydolls usually have off white wool with cinnamon or gray faces and legs. Currently people raise these docile sheep for their wool, as pets, and grass trimmers perfect for today's smaller acreage farms.

    Breed categories: medium wool, novelty

    Distribution: United Kingdom, North America

    Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep Registry =>
    Go to North American Babydoll Southdown Sheep Association and Registry=>

  • Badger Face Welsh Mountain

    The Welsh Mountain Badger Face is a color variation (a recessive trait) of the Welsh Mountain. It is an ancient Welsh breed, which was once common in the Welsh Mountains. Numbers of the breed fell during the Middle Ages when the cloth trade demanded a white wool. Numbers are now on the increase. The main type is known by Torddu which means blackbelly, but there is also a rarer Torwen which is the reverse coloration, black with a white belly.

    The Torddu variation have a distinctive broad striped face with a black band from jaw to belly and extending to the underside of the tail. The main fleece varies from pure white to light tan. Rams have dark spiral horns and the ewes are polled. The Badger is a good breed for crossing, especially on ewe lambs.

    Breed categories: long wool, dual-purpose

    Distribution: United Kingdom

    Go to Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep Society=>

  • Balwen Welsh Mountain

    The Welsh Mountain Sheep can be termed as an umbrella description to describe many of the breeds indigenous to Wales. Through breeding and selection over the centuries, the Welsh Mountain has developed into many distinct breeds; the Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep being one of these. Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep originate from one small area of Wales: the Tywi Valley. The name Balwen is welsh for white blaze.

    The Balwen sheep has a base color of black, brown, or dark grey. It has a white blaze on the face, four distinct white feet, and a half to two-thirds white tail. All males must have horns. Horns are not allowed on females. The Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep is a small, very hardy breed. They are easy to manage, having very few health problems associated with many of the larger breeds. It is thought farmers over the years used the Balwen as landmarks on the hills as a means of recognizing one's flock.

    Breed categories: rare

    Distribution: United Kingdom

    Go to Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep Society=>

  • Barbados Blackbelly

    The Barbados Blackbelly is an indigenous breed to the Caribbean island of Barbados. It descends from sheep brought to the islands from West Africa during the slave era. Blackbellies are "antelope like" in appearance, brown tan or yellow in color, with black points and under-parts. Both ewes and rams are polled or have only small scurs or diminutive horns.

    They may have some visible fuzzy wool undercoat within their hair coat, but it should shed along with the hair each year. Barbados Blackbelies are noted for their extreme hardiness and reproductive efficiency. They are one of the most prolific sheep breeds in the world.

    Breed category: hair (meat)

    Breed distribution: Caribbean, Mexico, South America

    Read History and Preservation of Barbados Blackbelly Sheep=>

  • Barki

    The Barki, which goes by several other names, is well-adapted to live under desert conditions. The breed is known for a long breeding season (300 days) and good mothering abilities; however, milk production of ewes is low. The breed is considered the main contributor to the livestock population in the Mediterranean area. They are multi-colored, usually white with brown or black head and legs. They produce coarse wool and have a small fat tail. They are the smallest Egyptian breed.

    Breed category: long wool, fat-tailed

    Distribution: Middle East

  • Bavarian Forest (Waldschaf)

    The Bavarian Forest, the successor of the Bavarian Zaupel, is decreasing in popularity and appears in the Bavarian herdbook only since 1987. Nevertheless it is an old and once wide-spread breed in its native region. It is a small to medium sheep, mostly white, though brown and black animals do occur.

    The fleece contains a mixture of fibers: kemp, hetero type, and wool fibers. Forest sheep are aseasonal. They usually lamb 3 times in 2 years.Their fertility amounts to about 180 percent. They are a hardy, weather and disease-resistant breed. They have good mothering ability.

    Breed category: rare, landrace, double-coated

    Distribution: Europe

    Go to Generhaltungsprojekt Waldschaf=>

Last updated 19-Apr-2021
Copyright© 2021. Sheep 101