One of the first animals to ever be domesticated by humans, the humble sheep has held an essential place in the history of livestock farming for thousands of years. With more than 200 unique breeds to choose from today, sheep come in various colors, including black, white, blue, brown, and combination colors. Both new and experienced livestock farmers will be able to find a breed that is perfect for their needs.
Solid white sheep have largely been the most popular coloration available for fiber production. This is because spinners can easily dye their wool to any hue needed for use in textiles. Additionally, white sheep can keep cool easier in the summer as their white color will reflect the sun’s heat instead of absorbing it.
Whether you are looking for sheep for milk production, meat production, or fiber yield, here are some of the best solid white sheep breeds available today!
Imported into the United States in 1904, the Romney quickly established itself as one of the best dual-purpose breeds of that time. Farmers found the naturally polled Romney breed excellent at converting less than perfect pasture into the right nutrients needed to produce lean and flavorful meat.
With ewes maturing at 200 pounds (90kg) and rams reaching or exceeding 275 pounds (124kg), the Romney is a desirable choice as a meat breed for both private and commercial-scale operations.
In addition, their wool is a very long fiber that is perfect for hand spinning. Each ewe sheared can produce around 12 pounds of fiber annually with an extremely high usable yield of 80% or more.
Romney sheep are usually found in pure white or shades of ivory and off-white colorations but can also be found in black, tan, and brown depending on genetics and outcrossing. Lambs born to white parents can either be white or black and start developing their adult coloring by the time they are weaned.
Originating in the Netherlands in the early 1800s, the Texel is a prevalent dual-purpose sheep breed. Imported into the United States in 1985, it took around 5 years before this naturally polled breed made it into the hands of private farmers. Once it did, its popularity grew at a steady pace.
Texel sheep produce an extremely lean carcass that has a highly unique muscle structure. This makes them one of the best breeds for meat production in North America and Europe today. Texel rams are often used to improve the muscle quality in other breeds of utility sheep and experimental outcrossing and hybridization programs.
Texel sheep can be rather large, with ewes reaching 185 pounds (84kg) and rams reaching 240 pounds (109kg). However, their easygoing disposition makes them easy to handle and maintain. Their wool is all white or off-white, with no black hairs found in the collected fiber. Ewes can produce 11 pounds (5kg) of fleece at each shearing.
Originating in Spain in the Middle Ages, the Merino sheep is undoubtedly one of the best-known wool-producing sheep breeds in the world. While the Merino is almost exclusively used on a commercial scale for its wool, there is a wide range of small farms and operations worldwide that specialize in Merino sheep meat.
This large-bodied breed can reach 180 pounds (81kg) for ewes and 235 pounds (106kg) for rams. Most Merino sheep are kept naturally horned; however, these horns are usually only seen in the rams. Variations of the Merino breed can be naturally polled, but the majority of farms keeping Merino sheep will have them with horns.
Merino sheep are most commonly found in solid white, although Merino variations are found in a wide range of colors and patterns.
This sheep can produce massive amounts of wool at each shearing. It’s not uncommon for a Merino ewe to produce up to 40 pounds (18kg) of fleece annually. However, due to the high amount of natural oils and grease in this fleece, the usable percentage can be lower than in other breeds.
The first Rambouillet sheep started making their appearances in the late 19th century. Rambouillet sheep were created from mixing pure Spanish Merino sheep and a variety of English wool-producing breeds. Over time, the Rambouillet became its own breed and quickly gained traction as a highly desirable Merino alternative.
Rambouillet sheep can be found both polled or horned. Due to their horns’ unique and attractive look, many farms prefer to keep their rams horned and their ewes polled.
At maturity, Rambouillet ewes can reach or exceed 250 pounds (113kg), and rams can reach 300 pounds (136kg). Their large body size makes them an excellent choice for meat production as well. The mutton from a Rambouillet sheep is very tender compared to other breeds, and the flavor is said to be intense but not overpowering.
Rambouillet sheep can produce up to 15 pounds (7kg) of dense, long-fiber wool at each shearing. The usable percentage is excellent for such a large sheep. Additionally, the long fibers can be around 3 inches long, making this breed an excellent choice for hand spinners and wool crafting.
Created in the 1700s through selective breeding and outcrossing, the naturally hornless Leicester Longwool sheep is a unique and highly desirable breed for fiber production. The wool on this breed is very long and has distinct curls the entire length of the fiber, making it an excellent choice for hand spinners or those who use wool for various crafts and alternative textiles.
When sheared, a Leicester ewe can produce up to 20 pounds (9kg) of wool with an extremely high usable percentage rate. While they are most commonly raised in solid white colorations, as this makes their wool a great choice for dyeing, Leicester Longwool sheep can also be found in black, brown, and various shades of those.
Adult ewes can reach 200 pounds (90kg) in size at maturity, and rams can reach or exceed 250 pounds (113kg). This breed is typically viewed as a single-purpose breed, with the focus being on their fiber production. Still, variations of the Leicester breed are equally as useful for mutton as well.
Dorset Sheep: White Faced Sheep
Extremely common around the world for their dual purpose capabilities, the Dorset sheep was first brought to the United States in 1860. By 1885, it was exhibited for the first time at a livestock show in Chicago Illinois, USA.
Dorset sheep are most commonly known for their exceptional meat qualities, however the quality of their fiber is equally as useful with each sheep producing anywhere from 5 to 9 pounds (2-4kg) of wool per shearing.
In the Dorset breed, the ewes can reach 200 pounds (90kg) and the rams can reach 275 pounds (124kg) in weight. They are most commonly found as polled stock, but horned Dorset are preferred by many owners as well.
Found in various records in the late 1300’s, the Cheviot quickly spread around the world as one of the top sheep breeds for fiber. Imported into the United States in 1838, and then into Australia 100 years later, this hardy sheep breed has quickly made its mark when it comes to survivability and ease of care.
Cheviots are usually kept for their wool with each sheep providing up to 10 pounds of fiber per shearing. As it is classified as a dual-purpose breed of sheep, many owners will find the Cheviot’s meat to be very mild and highly desirable in flavor.
Ewes commonly reach 160 pounds (72kg) and rams can reach 200 pounds (90kg) in weight at maturity.
The breed is almost always seen as polled stock, but it is not unusual for some Cheviot sheep breeders to keep horned rams as breeding stock or exhibition animals.
Friesian Milk Sheep
Found as both the East Friesian and the Dutch Friesian variations depending on whether they originated in Germany or Holland, the Friesian Milk Sheep is known the world over for its exceptional lactation abilities.
While a somewhat newer breed to the dairy sheep scene, the Friesian has quickly become the number one milk producing breed of sheep in the world. Ewes can easily provide up to 600 liters of milk per 230 day lactation cycle, with the bulk of their milk being used in the commercial production of feta cheese.
The wool is medium coarse with fiber weights ranging from 8 to 10 pounds (4-4.5kg) per shearing.
While the Friesian Milk Sheep is not usually considered to be a multi-purpose breed, their meat is often used on a smaller and non-commercial scale. It is said to be extremely lean with a mild and sweet flavor.
In this large breed of sheep, the ewes can easily reach or exceed 200 pounds (90kg) and the rams can reach 275 pounds (124kg) in body weight at maturity.
Originally imported into the United States in the 1950’s, the Jacob sheep has been bred as both an ornamental animal as well as a fiber producing breed for hand spinners, crafters, and small textile operations.
Due to the unique color patterns in their wool, their fiber is highly sought after by weavers. A Jacob sheep can produce up to 6 pounds (2.7kg) of fleece annually. They are considered a small breed with ewes reaching 110pounds (49kg) and rams reaching 160pounds (72kg).
The Jacob sheep’s most unique trait is their horns, which both sexes display. Many animals have four horns, though two or six is not uncommon. Rams can display massive horns, with two curled around their ears, and two pointing into the air from atop their head.
Additionally, Jacob sheep come in a fascinating piebald or blotched pattern with black and white being the most common combination. Their faces are almost always solid white which can extend from their ears to their nose. There is no limitation to the type of spotted pattern this breed can have, and lambs are often born with extremely diverse color patterns on their body, face, and legs.
Painted Desert Sheep
Originally created using various breeds including Mouflon, Texas Blackbelly, and Rambouillet, the Painted Desert Sheep is most commonly used for trophy hunting purposes.
However, in recent years a variety of ranches in the United States have turned their focus on meat production within the breed. Painted Desert Sheep offer an exotic meat flavor without the gameyness and stringy texture of wild species such as pure Mouflon.
Additionally, many ranchers are finding the Painted Desert Sheep to be extremely low maintenance when it comes to both grazing and lambing. Found in a variety of black and white coat patterns with a large white blaze on their face, Painted Desert Sheep are attractive to hobbyists as well as to individuals looking for ornamental or exhibition breeds.
Being a hair sheep, this breed does not require annual shearing. Instead, they will naturally shed the undercoat during the summer months. On average, adult ewes of this breed can reach 120 pounds (54kg), and rams can reach or exceed 200 pounds (90kg) in weight.
For farms wanting a few sheep to produce fiber for hand spinning and home-based textiles, white wool is much easier to clean and dye. Additionally, solid white sheep may do better than other colors in sweltering climates because their white coat will reflect most of the heat.