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10 Black Sheep Breeds (A to Z List with Pictures)

Examples of black sheep breeds include Arapawa Island Sheep, Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep, Black Hawaiian Sheep, Black Katahdin Sheep, and Black Welsh Mountain Sheep.

There are many different types of sheep breeds in the world, but some of them are more commonly known than others. The black sheep breed is one that is often associated with bad luck or misfortune. However, there are also many positive qualities associated with this breed.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the black sheep breed and learn more about its history and characteristics.

Black Sheep Breeds

Examples of Black Sheep Breeds

1. Arapawa Island Sheep

Scientific NameOvis aries
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeMarlborough Sounds, New Zealand

The Arapawa Island Sheep, which has lived as a mostly secluded wild variety of sheep since the 1800s, is considered a rare and endangered breed. While the actual origins of the sheep are unknown, it has been speculated that they were survivors of a sunken whaling ship off the coast of New Zealand.

Arapawa Island Sheep are raised mostly for preservation and decorative purposes, although they also generate adequate wool and meat for a small farm. Their wool is short and dense and is most usually seen in a solid black coloring, making it an excellent choice for a variety of small-scale textile operations and wool crafts.

At maturity, the Arapawa Island ewe can weigh up to 110 pounds (50kg), and the ram can weigh up to 120 pounds (54kg). Despite being smaller than many other breeds, Arapawa Island sheep can be difficult to handle due to their feral ancestors.

2. Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep

Scientific NameOvis aries
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeTywi valley in Wales

The Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep is a black-faced sheep indigenous to Wales. One of the UK’s rarest breeds, the Balwen was nearly extinct by the 1970s but has since been saved and is now classified as “vulnerable”.

A small mountain sheep, the Balwen averages around 125 pounds (56kg) for the ewe and 150 pounds (68kg) for the ram. They are a polled breed with either long or short horns and usually have black faces, legs, and tails. Their wool is a white to light grey color with fine quality.

The Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep are hardy animals that thrive in harsh weather conditions and on poor-quality forage. They are an excellent choice for the smallholder or hill farmer and are noted for their good mothering skills.

3. Black Hawaiian Sheep

Scientific NameOvis aries
Type of AnimalMammal

The Black Hawaiian Sheep is an all-black type with a spectacular horn display that is commonly kept as a trophy breed on hunting ranches. Some believe the Black Hawaiian is a melanistic color variation of the Mouflon sheep, however, the true origins of the Black Hawaiian are unknown or just hypothesized on.

While the Black Hawaiian sheep is not a good choice for small mutton farms, it does provide high-quality lean meat with good muscle and bone structure. The flavor has been described as sweet and delicious, with little to no gamey aftertaste found in other wild or feral species.

The Black Hawaiian sheep is a medium-sized breed, with ewes weighing up to 150 pounds (68kg) and males weighing up to and beyond 200 pounds (90kg). Rams have large curled or Corsican-styled spreads on their horns, which are their most identifying trait.
This breed is classified as a hair breed and does not produce wool. Instead, they will shed their undercoat annually, allowing them to thrive in hot, dry regions while removing the need for annual shearing.

4. Black Katahdin Sheep

Scientific NameOvis aries
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeMaine in the United States

The Katahdin sheep’s ancestors were imported into the United States in the late 1950s as part of a breeding project to create a breed of meat sheep that did not require shearing. As a result of this breeding project, modern Katahdin sheep are only used for mutton production.
Katahdin sheep, unlike other sheep, are genetically incapable of producing body fleece and, as a result, do not require annual shearing. This reduces their maintenance costs and allows them to live in hotter climates more comfortably than other breeds.

The Katahdin is a medium to large-sized breed, with ewes weighing in at or above 160 pounds (72kg) and rams weighing in at or above 250 pounds (113kg). They are typically found as polled stock, though horned animals are not uncommon in some herds or genetic lines.
When compared to other meat breeds, Katahdin grows slowly, but this extra time helps ensure a good bone structure and proper muscling throughout the sheep.

Outcrossing your Katahdin with other breeds can result in more desirable mutton, depending on your local market demands.
Katahdin can be found in a variety of colors and patterns, but the Black Katahdin is usually jet black all over, including the face, ears, and hooves.

5. Black Welsh Mountain Sheep

Scientific NameOvis aries
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeEngland, Scotland, Wales and Ireland

Since the Middle Ages, the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep has been prized for the great quality of its mutton and fiber. The Black Welsh Mountain sheep is a real dual-purpose foreign breed that can be found in considerable numbers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

Black Welsh Mountain ewes and rams grow to roughly 140 pounds and are considered a small to medium-sized breed (63kg). Because of their smaller size, they are significantly easier to handle and maintain for inexperienced sheep owners.

Furthermore, these sheep are exceptionally tough and disease resistant. They are well-known for their ability to convert poor pasture into useable nutrients that may keep them going all year in most regions. When left at pasture, lambing is often trouble-free, and the herd as a whole is very self-sufficient.

The fineness of their jet-black colored wool is what makes Black Welsh Mountain sheep so desirable. The short fibers of its dense wool have been widely employed by hand spinners and wool weavers all over the world.

In some parts of the world, their meat is regarded as a premium delicacy, making them a good alternative for farmers searching for an exotic breed to grow for meat.

6. Hebridean Sheep

Scientific NameOvis aries
Type of AnimalMammal
Rangethe islands off the western coast of Scotland

The four-horned Hebridean sheep, which originated in Scotland’s western islands, is now considered endangered. They are primarily kept for decorative purposes, but their wool and milk qualities should not be overlooked.

The wool, which has a strong black body, may turn gray or silver as the animal ages. Shear them once a year, with an adult ewe generating 5 pounds (2.2kg) of fleece each time. The useable percentage of fiber is in the mid-range of 50-60%.
Hebridean sheep are extremely self-sufficient, with ewes rarely suffering lambing problems. Twins and triplets are common in the breed, making it considerably easier for farms to profit from small flocks.

7. Jacob Sheep

Scientific NameOvis aries
Type of AnimalMammal
Rangethe U.K. and North America

The Jacob Sheep is an ancient multi-horned breed of domestic sheep originating in the Middle East. It is named after the Biblical patriarch Jacob, who was said to have purchased these spotted animals from his father-in-law, Laban.

Jacobs was first imported into the United States in 1838 and quickly became a favorite of American farmers. They are now the most popularly bred sheep in the country.

Jacobs is a small to medium-sized breed, averaging around 90 pounds (40kg) for ewes and 110 pounds (50kg) for rams. They have short, lustrous wool that comes in a wide range of colors, including black, white, brown, gray, and spotted.

Jacobs is known for their multi-horned appearance, with most animals having four horns. However, some sheep may have as many as six or eight horns. These horns are both ornamental and functional, helping the sheep to scrape away snow in winter and defend themselves from predators.

8. Najdi Sheep

Scientific NameOvis aries
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeSaudi Arabia

The Najdi sheep is a rare breed that is highly adapted to the hot, dry climate of Saudi Arabia. They are listed as “critical” on the conservation watch list and there are less than 1,000 registered animals in the world.

They have long, thin legs and a slender build which helps them stay cool in the heat. Their coat is short and light-colored, which also helps them regulate their body temperature.

Najdi sheep are considered a multi-purpose breed and are used for both meat and milk production. They are also sometimes used for wool.

The average Najdi Sheep ewe weighs between 120-180 pounds (54-81kg) and the ram weighs between 150-230 pounds (68-104kg).

Ewes will usually have twins or triplets and the lambs are born with a short, light-colored coat that helps them stay cool in the hot climate.

As the climate in Saudi Arabia continues to get hotter and drier, the Najdi Sheep is becoming increasingly important as a breed that is well-adapted to the local climate.

9. Valais Blacknose Sheep

Scientific NameOvis aries
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeSwiss Alps

The Valais Blacknose Sheep, arguably one of the cutest sheep species in existence, has been compared to plush toys and teddy bears. This Swiss breed is a very old breed that was first described in the 1400s. It is considered a dual-purpose sheep that is utilized for both fiber and meat.

The first pure Valais Blacknose sheep sperm was transported into the United States in 2016, followed by live animals in 2018. The Valais Blacknose has swiftly become the most sought-after sheep breed available today.
Their wool grows exceptionally quickly, typically reaching a length of 12 inches per year. This means that a single sheep can furnish wool twice a year, with each shearing providing approximately 4-5 pounds (1.8-2.2kg) of fiber.

The Valais Blacknose ewe can mature at 150 pounds (68kg) as a medium-sized breed, while the ram can reach or exceed 200 pounds (90kg). Their attractive white bodies with long curly or crimped hair capture the attention, but their jet black curl-covered faces and black-spotted knees give character and charm.

Lambs are covered in tightly curled wool from head to tail that mimics the color and patterning of adults. Ewes and rams should have horns that are firmly curled and sit close to the head. This breed is rarely available in polled or hornless varieties.

10. Zwartbles Sheep

Scientific NameOvis aries
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeFriesland region of the north Netherlands

The Zwartbles is a Dutch breed of black-coated sheep. The name “Zwartbles” comes from the Dutch words Zwart, meaning “black”, and bok, meaning “buck”.

This sheep was originally bred in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands and was first exported to other countries in the 1970s. It is now found in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, France, and the United States.

The Zwartbles is a medium-sized sheep, with ewes weighing around 150 pounds (68kg) and rams around 200 pounds (90kg). The coat is black with white markings on the face, legs, and tail. The fleece is heavy wool, with a fiber diameter of 24-30 microns.

The Zwartbles is a dual-purpose sheep, used for both meat and wool. The wool is medium to coarse in texture and is often used for rug making, upholstery, and other heavy-duty applications. The meat is lean and flavorful and is considered a delicacy in some countries.


There are a number of black sheep breeds found all over the world, each with its own unique features and purposes. While some people may believe that these animals bring bad luck, they can be interesting and useful creatures to have on your farm or homestead.

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