This is by no means an exhaustive list of the different breeds of sheep available world wide or even in North America. For a more complete listing of breeds with easy to find factual information the best resource is Storey's Illustrated Breed Guide to Sheep, Goats, Cattle and Pigs written by Carol Ekarius.
We covered breeds suited to grass based production, maternal traits and terminal sire breeds on the entry page to this section: Choosing sheep breeds for grass based production.
Keep in mind that although we're noting sheep breeds according to a single trait, all the breeds are capable of being good producers in two or more areas of selection (ie being dual purpose). So don't discount a breed at first glance simply because it's listed or not listed here.
The wool breeds are duly noted for producing fine quality wool and uniform heavy fleeces. The wool from these different breeds of sheep are sought after by wool mills and wool marketers.
Merino, Rambouillets, Corriedale (produce white or brown or black
wool), Lincoln (produce longer wool staples), Leicester (long wool),
Romney (white and browns), Black Welsh Mountain (brown black to solid
black wool), Jacob (colored fleeces), Shetland (colored fleeces),
Deboaillet, Icelandic Sheep (colored fleeces for specific niche of lopi
Hair Sheep Breeds
Since they are kind of distinct, we've given them a page to themselves. Learn more about hair sheep.
These breeds are noted for rates of gain (or weaning weights) and carcass frame,
or in the case of some of the smaller framed animals a leaner meat
with mild flavour. They are selected for the carcass they can produce.
Several of the different breeds of sheep listed here will also have
listed for having either maternal or terminal traits.
Dorset, Dorper, Hampshire, Ille de France, Suffolk, Texel, Canadian Arcott, Cheviot, Polypay, Rideau Arcott, Scottish Blackface, Targhee, Katahdins, Finnish Landrace, Icelandic, Southdowns,
Prolific breeds are noted for having high number of lambs per birthing. Triplets and quads would be a common occurrence with litters of five not being out of the norm. This makes these breeds good candidates for barn lambing and intensively managed, high input operations. This same quality makes them unappealing for grass based operations since a high amount of assistance will be required to feed four and five lambs.
East Friesian, Finnish Landrace, Ramanov, Polypay
Not surprisingly the diary sheep are those breeds also noted for being prolific.
East Friesian, Finnish Landrace, Romanov, Polypay, Ile de France