Categorizing sheep breeds in a useful manner is always a bit of a dilemma. Sheep are versatile animals who provide a lot of value for their worth.
Sheep are raised for wool, meat and less commonly for milk. Combine this with the fact that many breeds of sheep are dual purpose, meaning they will provide two of the above criteria and the various other facets one might consider (like hair or wool and for profit or for pet) and it makes it difficult to peg sheep breeds into specific categories.
The best way to begin sorting through the numerous breeds of sheep is to first have an idea of your reason for raising sheep. This allows you to eliminate some types from the list right away.
Is your goal to raise sheep via a grass based low input model? Or are you looking for sheep that produce as many lambs as possible each year? Or perhaps the goal includes raising sheep for quality fleeces and lanolin products or saving a rare breed.
If you are looking for grass based range sheep then you can cross out the prolific breeds
If you are looking for dairy sheep then you can cross out the meat breeds
If you are looking for wool sheep you can cross out the hair breeds
If you are looking for a rare breed you can cross out the common breeds
We've put together two pages listing sheep breeds in a manner we hope will serve for finding quick information for the sake of narrowing down your choice. We mention the qualities or traits emphasized for that category, however, we do not go into individual breed descriptions because we feel that information is aptly covered by numerous other sources.
See breeds of sheep, page one, including sheep for grass production, maternal and terminal sire breeds.
Once you narrow down why you are raising sheep then you can look at the other qualities within the shortened breed list. From this shortened breed list you can determine a breed best suited to your land, your ranch and your desires.
As you progress with your sheep flock you will be looking for breed qualities to add value to your flock, such as fleece quality, maternal qualities or disease resistance. The relevance of each of these is covered on under breeds of sheep.
One topic we feel is very important to any species of livestock for adding value is rare breeds. Unfortunately in selecting for particular desirable traits to keep up with market trends, producers have become fascinated with the 'peas in a pod' notion. Uniformity among livestock has long been sought after and is a sharp edged sword to play with.
The fact there are still some rare breeds of sheep in existence gives us some hope for genetic diversity and the continuation of the versatility of sheep. We respect and admire people who undertake the challenge of conserving rare breeds of livestock.