Humans and sheep have been linked for thousands of years. That is because they make great domesticated animals, and provide a range of different services for those that care for them. Among those services are wool and meat.
Anybody with sheep wants their herd to produce quality materials, but not all types do that on the same level. There are dozens of different sheep breeds in the world, and only a choice few provide the best of the best.
Separating The Good Sheep Breeds From The Mediocre
Despite the high number of sheep breeds, every type is different. Even similar ones vary wildly when it comes to their meat and wool quality. Some are perfect for a tasty meal, while others create some of the bushiest and softest clothing around.
The following sheep breeds make it onto the list because they all excel in at least one area. You have ones with great meat, ones with great fleece, and some that have a mix of both.
1. Dorper Sheep
All of the sheep breeds on this list offer either wool or meat. However, the incredibly popular Dorper kicks off our list because of well it provides both.
This breed, which comes from a mix between the Dorset Horn and the Blackhead Persian, provides many different materials that are highly sought after around the globe.
First and foremost is the breed’s meat. The delicious mutton gives off a strong, almost robust flavor that is like no other species. As a result, many western regions breed the Dorper for food alone.
However, the sheep also has a combination of hair and wool that is used by weavers to create certain clothing items. This is not the primary reason to breed them, but it is an added bonus. The Dorper’s skin is sought after for use in a range of products as well.
It is also worth mentioning that the Dorper is able to adapt to a range of different conditions. Its ability to thrive in diverse climates across the globe means you almost never have to worry about region when raising a herd.
2. Suffolk Sheep
The Dorper is a cherished sheep that offers great meat, but they are not as popular as Suffolk.
This breed, which first originated in the UK and is marked by its black face, is known to have some of the best tasting meat on Earth.
There are many sheep breeds cultivated primarily for their carcass, but the black-legged Suffolk is in another class of its own. Not only does it give you great meat, but it gives you a lot of it.
The Suffolk is one of the largest sheep breeds on Earth, and it is able to stock a dinner table or store for quite some time.
As with the Dorper, this large breed can also be used for wool. However, that is not the primary reason to raise this species. It is a small bonus to the meat, but it won’t give you the same output you’ll see with other breeds on this list.
If it’s wool you’re after, the Merino is the sheep for you. This is one of the most popular sheep breeds on Earth simply because it produces extremely high-quality wool. In fact, almost no other fleece can compare.
This breed has been around for hundreds of years, and for good reason. They provide a lot of quality to the people who take the time to raise them.
Just be aware that, though the Merino wool is fantastic, it cannot be used for all purposes. It is often delicate or light to the touch, which means it is used mainly for cold weather clothing. Even so, it can be sold quite easily.
As great as their wool is, the Merino breed also provides lean meat. While not as tasty as some of the other sheep breeds on this list, the Merino would be a nice addition should you want to get multiple uses out of your herd.
These tough, hardy animals also have a nearly unmatched natural resiliency. As their wool does not stop growing, be sure to shear them once a year.
4. Dorset Sheep
Moving away from wool and going back to meat, there’s the Dorset. This, as with the above two options, is one of the premier sheep breeds for people who want to turn their livestock into food.
This breed is delicious. So much so that it is one of the primary choices for people who enjoy mutton on their table. That carcass, which can weigh between 225 and 250 pounds, has made them one of the most popular breeds on Earth.
In addition, Dorset sheep are easy to raise, and they create milk that many people enjoy. That combination gives them a bit of extra versatility and makes them one of the best food-related breeds around.
They even have wool that, while not as sought after as other popular sheep breeds, still makes serviceable clothing and blankets.
This is one of the most popular American breeds on Earth. Not only can they thrive in just about every single state, but their ability to give both milk and meat makes them sought after by many. They tend to breed quickly compared to other sheep as well.
5. American Blackbelly
Number five on this list of sheep breeds is the American Blackbelly. Every single sheep here is popular because of one certain benefit. This breed, which is used for various products, breaks that mold. It also comes with the bonus of being one of the best species for new breeders.
That is because, unlike similar sheep breeds, the American Blackbelly is able to withstand a range of problems and can be brought up with little to no issues. Not only can the sheep thrive on low-quality forage, but their hair is naturally worm-resistant as well.
As mentioned, this breed is cultivated for a range of different reasons. Hunters go after their horns but, for the purposes of this list, they provide good wool and lean, unique meat.
Their wool is easy to care for and utilize, which makes it great for numerous products. That comes in handy, but the American Blackbelly is mainly used for meat.
While many people enjoy mutton, it does come with a strong, gamey flavor that can be a bit too much for come.
The American Blackbelly gets around that because it has lean meat that does not have the strong mutton flavor of other breeds. That makes it a great choice for people or breeders who enjoy eating sheep but want something a bit more subtle.
6. Leicester Longwool
As the name suggests, Leicester Long-Wool Sheep is one of the best breeds when it comes to wool.
These medium-to-large-sized animals have long, curly hair that is easy to dye and extremely versatile. That combination is something not seen in most sheep breeds, which makes the Longwool such a wonderful choice for people who want to turn their sheep into clothing or blankets.
The Leicester Longwool can be shorn twice a year, and that harvest will give you quite a bit of wool.
In addition, they are known for their high-quality carcass and their skin in sought after by weavers around the world.
The only catch of this Longwool is that it is one of the rarest breeds on Earth. There are currently around 2000 in existence. However, many people are making moves to increase their numbers and spread them to different areas.
7. Lincoln Sheep
Closing out this list is the Lincoln. This Longwool is cousins with the Leicester, but it has a few noticeable differences.
The first thing to note about this breed is that it is incredibly tough. Not only does it have a sturdy 260- to 350-pound frame, but it is also tough enough to stand up to numerous elements.
As with the Leicester, this longwool is known for its incredible fleece. Weavers all over the world choose to use the long, lustrous wool in their products because of how well it can be shaped and handled.
The fleece grows roughly twelve inches a year, which means each sheep produces between twelve and sixteen pounds of wool annually. That is more than enough to satisfy anyone who uses them towards that end.
Lincolns also come in five colors: white, black, silver, charcoal, and gray.
Wool, Meat, And Some In-between
Many sheep seem similar on the surface, but each breed comes with its own pros and cons. Knowing such differences is important when deciding what you want out of your herd.
The above seven sheep breeds all offer different materials, but the ones they do offer they excel in extremely well. If you want meat, wool, or a mix of meat and wool, you won’t find any breeds that can surpass the ones laid out in this guide.