Sheep Breeds

Are all sheep breeds the same? Certainly not! Like most animals, sheep have evolved over time, adapting to the unique conditions of their native landscape. They have also been bred for the appearance and production qualities valued by the farmers who raise them. 

This has created a rich variety of different breeds of sheep, offering farmers the ability to choose the breed best suited to their climate and their unique goals.

On this page we provide a resource list of more than 50 of the most common breeds of sheep. We’ve done our best to sort this list for easy browsing – presenting images of each type of sheep to make it easy to find the breed you’re interested in learning more about, or to identify a breed of sheep you saw in a field or at your local fairgrounds.

The 5 Different Types of Sheep

We’ve separated this list of 50+ sheep breeds into five general categories:

  1. Meat Breeds
  2. Wool Breeds
  3. Dual Purpose Breeds
  4. Hair Sheep Breeds
  5. Minor or Rare Breeds  
But within each category there are distinctions and nuances. For example, there are significant differences in the different breeds of sheep raised for wool – some produce fine wool, while other breeds produce wool that is longer and more coarse. Each has unique properties that offer different value to farmers and they can be used in different ways.
Types of Sheep

Below you’ll find links to all of the different breeds of sheep listed on our site.

If you’re thinking about raising sheep and aren’t sure where to start, try our sheep farming for beginners section, or click directly to our article about selecting the best sheep breed for you.

Meat Sheep Breeds

Meat sheep breeds produce wool but most shepherds raise these sheep for their rapid rate of growth and high yield carcasses. These breeds are often very popular in the show ring due to their flashy appearance and the fact that breeders are usually easy to locate.
 
Blue Texel Sheep

Blue Texel Sheep

The Blue Texel sheep breed was first recognized and recorded as a distinct breed during the early 1970s in the Netherlands. Natural colored “blue” Texel

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Cheviot Sheep

Cheviot Sheep

The Cheviot sheep breed is an alert, active breed that features a white face and compact body. This breed is most popular in England, Scotland, and Wales.

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Dorset Sheep

Dorset Sheep

Dorset sheep are famous for their lambing abilities since they are a breed which can lamb up to two times each year. It is also

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Hampshire Sheep

Hampshire Sheep

The Hampshire sheep breed is primarily raised for meat production, though the breed has also emerged as a popular choice for youngsters in 4-H and

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Montadale Sheep

Montadale Sheep

The Montadale sheep breed is one of the youngest breeds of sheep in existence, originating in the United States as a cross between the large

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Oxford Sheep

Oxford Sheep

The Oxford sheep breed was developed in Oxford County in England. A mix between Hampshires and Cotwolds, it has also been suggested that in the

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Shropshire Sheep

Shropshire Sheep

The Shropshire sheep breed originated in England. Farmers developed the breed by crossbreeding Leicester, Southdown, Cotswold and native sheep. In 1855 the Shropshire sheep breed

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Southdown Sheep

Southdown Sheep

The Southdown sheep breed is one of the most popular and oldest breeds of sheep. The breed was originally developed in England and were brought

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Suffolk Sheep

Suffolk Sheep

Suffolk sheep can be found around the world and are a popular choice in countries which value commercial sheep production. The Suffolk sheep breed is

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Texel Sheep

Texel Sheep

The Texel sheep breed originated in the Netherlands more than 150 years ago on the Isle of Texel. The breed was introduced to sheep producers

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Tunis Sheep

Tunis Sheep

The Tunis sheep breed originated in the country of Tunisia in Northern Africa. This unique-looking breed was first introduced to the United States in 1799

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Long Wool Sheep Breeds

Handspinners often raise long wool sheep breeds as these animals produce long, lustrous fleece which is easy to work with. Though not as large or fast-growing as the meat breeds listed above, long wool sheep breeds are popular around the world.
 
Coopworth Sheep

Coopworth Sheep

The Coopworth sheep breed originated in New Zealand. This breed was developed by crossing Romney and Border Leicester sheep during the 1950’s and 1960’s and

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Cotswold Sheep

Cotswold Sheep

The Cotswold sheep breed is a large, muscular breed of sheep raised primarily for their wool. Cotswold fleece is long, thick, and curly and the

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Lincoln Sheep

Lincoln Sheep

The Lincoln sheep breed is one of the largest breeds in the world. This breed also has the longest, shiniest and thickest fleece in the

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Perendale Sheep

Perendale Sheep

Originally from New Zealand, the Perendale sheep breed is a mixture between the Romney and Border Cheviot. Their features include open faces and average size

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Romney Sheep

Romney Sheep

The Romney originated in the Romney Marsh area of England and this breed of sheep can thrive in wet and cold environments. In 1904 Romney

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Wensleydale Sheep

Wensleydale Sheep

The Wensleydale sheep is a large-sized breed that has long wool and is distinguishable through its “blue” head, legs, and ears. This breed is originally

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Fine Wool Sheep Breeds

While fine wool breeds don’t produce a fleece with as long a staple (length) as the long-wool breeds listed above, their high-quality fleeces are highly valued for commercial uses. Wool from these sheep breeds can be found in many high-end woolen clothes.
 
Cormo Sheep

American Cormo Sheep

The American Cormo sheep breed originally comes from Tasmania in Australia. They are a mix of Superfine Saxon Merino, Lincoln, and Australian Merino. In 1976,

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Booroola Merino Sheep

Booroola Merino Sheep

The Booroola Merino originated in Australia by using the pre-existing Merino Flock of commercial sheep, which were intended for reproduction. This distinguished breed is a

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Debouillet Sheep

Debouillet Sheep

The Debouillet sheep breed originated in 1920 in Tatum, New Mexico. This sheep breed is the product of crossbreeding the Rambouillet and the Delaine Merino

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Delaine Merino Sheep

Delaine Merino Sheep

The Delaine-Merino sheep breed has been bred for over 1,000 years, earning an international reputation for its prize-winning wool production. The Delaine-Merino has a medium

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Rambouillet Sheep

Rambouillet Sheep

The Rambouillet sheep breed is a noble-looking breed which originally comes from France – the product of breeding local stock with Germany’s Spanish Merino. Rambouillet

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Dual Purpose Sheep Breeds

Dual purpose breeds are popular due to their versatility. Shepherds who value sheep which can produce a serviceable fleece while also exhibiting rapid growth often raise dual purpose sheep breeds. Click on any of the images below to learn more.
 
Columbia Sheep

Columbia Sheep

The Columbia sheep breed is the first of several breeds to have been developed in the United States, making it truly All-American. Columbia sheep originated

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Corriedale Sheep

Corriedale Sheep

Out of all the breeds of sheep that are used for wool production, the Corriedale sheep breed is by far the oldest. This storied breed

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East Friesian Sheep

East Friesian Sheep

The East Friesian sheep breed is native to Germany’s Northern area and to Friesland province in the Netherlands. In 1994, Canada introduced the East Friesian

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Finnsheep

Finnsheep

Finnsheep, also known as Finnish Landrace, are a breed which traces its roots to Finland. The breed is one of the oldest varieties of sheep

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Panama Sheep

Panama Sheep

The Panama sheep breed originated in the 1990’s in Idaho and was the product of work by private breeders. The Panama breed is a cross

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Polypay Sheep

Polypay Sheep

The Polypay sheep breed is a breed that was created by the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in the 1970’s in Nicholas Farms in Sonoma, California,

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Targhee Sheep

Targhee Sheep

The Targhee sheep breed was created by the U.S Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho in 1926 – making the Targhee one of the youngest

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Hair Sheep Breeds

Sometimes confused with goats, hair sheep are increasing in popularity as these animals reduce production time and cost (no annual investment in shearing) and many hair sheep breeds also have a resistance to parasites which can lead to a significant savings in annual medical expenses. Hair sheep breeds offer a very unique and distinctive appearance – click any tile for more photos.
 
California Red Sheep

California Red Sheep

The California Red sheep breed is originally from the University of California after combining the Barbados Blackbelly and Tunis breeds. Unlike the other hair breeds,

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Dorper Sheep

Dorper Sheep

The Dorper is a breed of sheep that originated in the south of Africa in the 1940’s. It is the product of cross-breeding between the

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Katahdin Sheep

Katahdin Sheep

The Katahdin sheep breed originated from crossing the Wiltshire Horn, Suffolk and St. Croix breeds of sheep. The Katahdin breed was developed in Maine and

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Mouflon Sheep

Mouflon Sheep

It’s thought that Mouflon Sheep (Ovis orientalis orientalis) are one of two sheep breeds which are an ancestor for all domestic sheep. The dramatic, wild appearance of the

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Romanov Sheep

Romanov Sheep

The Romanov sheep breed is originally from the valley of Volga in Moscow’s northeastern region. The name Romanov is derived from the former Russian royal

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Royal White Sheep

Royal White Sheep

The Royal White Sheep is a relatively new breed that was created by the Dorpochoix Sheep Farm in Hermeleigh, Texas. William Hoag is credited for

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St Croix Sheep

St Croix Sheep

The St Croix sheep breed originated in the Virgin Islands and as a result it is sometimes referred to as the Virgin Island White. These

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Rare & Minor Sheep Breeds

Many of the sheep breeds listed in this category are more difficult to find in certain regions of the world, but each offers something unique which makes the breed beloved by the shepherds who raise them.
 
Clun Forest Sheep

Clun Forest Sheep

The Clun Forest sheep breed is originally from Shropshire’s southwestern district in England, which is next to the border of Wales. They are predominant in

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Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic Sheep

What we recognize as the Icelandic sheep breed is a heritage breed descended from sheep which were brought over to Iceland during the ninth century

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Jacob Sheep

Jacob Sheep

The history of the Jacob sheep breed is a mystery but they have been found in England for more than 300 years. The Jacob is

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Karakul Sheep

Karakul Sheep

The Karakul is possibly the oldest domesticated sheep breed in the world. They are native to Central Asia’s deserts and feature open faces with fine

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Navajo Churro Sheep

Navajo Churro Sheep

Navajo-Churro history shows that the Spanish first brought these sheep to the United States in 1514. They are believed to be the first sheep breed

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Ouessant Sheep

Ouessant Sheep

The Ouessant (pronounced: Ushant) sheep breed is a domestic breed which is named for the island where it originated. The island of Ouessant is a

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Scottish Blackface Sheep

Scottish Blackface Sheep

Scotland’s history reveals that the iconic Scottish Blackface sheep breed was developed there, and the breed was originally utilized to produce prolific crossbred ewes. These

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Shetland Sheep

Shetland Sheep

Shetland history shows that this particular breed has been around for more than a thousand years and is a descendant of the Northern European Short-Tail.

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Wiltshire Horn Sheep

Wiltshire Horn Sheep

The Wiltshire Horn sheep breed developed in the south of England, where its history dates back over numerous centuries. They are sometimes incorrectly described as

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