Rare Sheep Breeds

Rare sheep are those whose breeding population has dropped drastically. The reasons for this may vary – a limited range, preference for another breed for the same purpose, and the general difficulty in rearing sheep for wool. However, some of these sheep have unique traits that make them stand out. 

Rare Sheep Breeds

List of Rare Sheep Breeds

These are several sheep breeds that are considered rare for various reasons.

Sheep BreedPurposeWhy is it Rare?
Balwen Welsh MountainMeatLimited range
Border LeicesterWoolDecline in breeding due to the fall of the wool carpet industry
BorerayConservation grazing; previously for meat and woolPreference of the Soay sheep over this breed
Castlemilk MooritHobby farmingLimited range
Clun ForestMeat, milk, and woolLack of interest in rearing it in its native UK
CotswoldDual purpose for meat and woolLimited range
California Variegated Mutant/RomeldaleWoolLimited breeding
Derbyshire GritstoneMeatLimited range
Devon and Cornwall LongwoolWool Limited range
Devon ClosewoolMeatLimited range
Dorset DownMeatPreference of the Suffolk sheep over this breed
Dorset HornWoolPreference for the polled version over the horned one
Greyface DartmoorMeatLimited breeding due to its slow growth rate
Gulf CoastWoolWhile its trait of surviving in humid conditions was a desirable one, after World War II, with the rise in medicines, the demand for this breed declined.
Hill RadnorMeatLimited range
IcelandicMeat and wool, formerly milkLimited range combined with low chances of crossbreeding
JacobWoolHeirloom breed with limited uses
KarakulPeltsExcessive killing for their hides has led to depleted numbers
Leicester LongwoolWoolPreference of the Merino sheep over this breed
LincolnWoolLimited breeding due to the difficulty in shearing their wool
LlanwenogMeatLimited breeding
LonkDual purpose for meat and woolLimited range
Manx LoaghtanDual purpose for meat and woolLimited range
NajdiDual purpose for milk and woolLimited breeding due to lack of interest, slow growth rate, and high cost of maintenance
Navajo-ChurroMultiple uses like wool, milk, pelts, meat, etc.Limited range
Norfolk HornMeatPreference of the Leicester and the Southdown sheep over this breed
North RonaldsayDual purpose for meat and woolLimited range
OuessantWoolLimited range
Oxford DownMeatPreference of the Suffolk and the Texel sheep over this breed
PortlandMeatIts numbers declined, and it now lives over a limited range
RackaMeat, milk, and woolLimited range
Santa CruzWoolLimited range
ShetlandWool, meat, conservation grazingCrossbreeding with other sheep
TeeswaterMeatPreference of the Wensleydale sheep over this breed
WensleydaleWoolLimited range
Whiteface DartmoorMeatPreference of the Greyface Dartmoor sheep over this breed
Whitefaced WoodlandMeatLimited range
Wiltshire HornMeatLimited range

Thanks to the efforts of individual breeders and organizations like the Livestock Breeds Conservancy, these sheep breeds are monitored so they do not go extinct. 

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join our subscribers' list to get the latest news, and updates delivered directly in your inbox.