How to Identify Breeds of Sheep by Their Distinctive Marks

Romanian sheep grazing on a green meadow at sunsetWe must admit that sheep are interesting animals, not only for their gentle and lovely appearance, but also for their ability to provide very good quality meat and wool. As far as we consider, sheep are easier to handle compared to cattle, not only because of their smaller size, but also because of their temperate behaviour.

Nevertheless, we think that sheep farmers are great too, because, even though sheep are easier to handle, they put a lot of effort, care and attention in growing them naturally and healthily. Their knowledge regarding the breeds of sheep helps them take special care of each type of breed. But these are the certified farmers, the ones who take care of hundreds of animals, not just a few. We’ve made a short guide regarding the distinctive marks of these popular breeds, so that an unwitting buyer or consumer can recognise and distinguish the most common sheep breeds.

How to distinguish the most common breeds of sheep

Probably, the most common question that may come in people’s mind right now is the number of breeds. Because only developed countries register the breeds in an organised way, it’s really difficult to say exactly how many breeds of sheep there are. It is believed that there are more sheep breeds than breeds of any other livestock species in the world. So, these tiny, curly animals seem to be all over the world.
However, let’s see how we can recognise 3 of the most common breeds of sheep in the world:

1. Merino sheep

Originally from Spain, Merino is a very important breed for wool production, being otherwise the founding breed for many other breeds, popular nowadays. As a highly adaptable and easy-going breed, Merino has no problem living in almost any environment and climate.

As for the appearance, it’s most likely that Merino sheep are very well known to us by their medium sized body, with their thick skin and a lot of wrinkles, being fascinating and often seen all over the world. Also, the Merino sheep have hair that is curled tight against the head horns, so it’s very easy to recognize them.

2. Lincoln sheep

Appreciated globally for their amazingly heavy, long, lustrous-wool fleece, the Lincoln sheep are very good wool providers for handcrafts and spinning as well as for blending with other shorter wool, in order to make it longer and easier to handle.
Their calm and docile temper make them very easy to raise by farmers, as these sheep don’t mind at all being around humans.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Lincoln is a dual breed, being appreciated for meat, but mostly for wool, with a large body size. The colour of their fleece is either completely white, either white with shades of grey, black, silver or charcoal. We can recognize a Lincoln breed by its specific heavy locks, twisted into a spiral near the end and in most of the cases, these locks cover half of their faces.

3. Dorset Down

This is one of the prettiest breeds in the world, with black faces and legs and with high quality white fleeces.

This breed is very appreciated by farmers all over the world because it produces early maturing lambs, which is great for commercial purposes and for the food chain and also because of its amazing wool, better than any other breed. They are calm, docile, friendly animals, easy to handle and train, this being another reason why they are appreciated by farmers.

Besides these three common sheep breeds, there are many other just as good and profitable as these ones. In Romania for example, Tsurcana and Tsigai breeds are highly appreciated by farmers because of their solid, muscular body, for their quality fleece and lastly, for their friendly behaviour which make them easy to raise.

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