The Barbado sheep is a wonderful breed of “Hair” sheep worth consideration if you are a hobby farmer or somebody just getting into sheep, or if you want something different looking in your pasture.
Not all sheep are white and woolly. The Barbado sheep is a “Hair” breed. My husband and I found them only after first purchasing some wool sheep and realizing that the value of wool was almost less than what it cost to shear them. The hair sheep are also smaller, making them easier to work with, and they possess some other great qualities. They are said to be tastier, but I wouldn’t know, I never liked the taste of lamb, and certainly wouldn’t be fond of the taste of my pets.
A 2 month old ram lamb, photo by author, note the small horns.
Barbado sheep should not be confused with the breed known as the Barbados Blackbelly. Barbados Blackbelly are a polled breed (no horns). Barbado sheep are sometimes referred to as “American Blackbelly sheep”. Barbado sheep have big curled horns on the rams, and occasionally on the ewes. The breed originated in Texas by breeding Barbados Blackbelly to Rambouilette and Mouflon, a primitive breed.
Photo by Author, mom and her twin rams at 1 week of age.
The result was a smaller hair sheep suited for many purposes. As one might expect they are often used for meat, but another very profitable industry has proven to be trophy hunting. The rams develop a large set of horns resembling those of the Big Horn Mountain Sheep, only on a much smaller domestic animal.
Additionally Barbado sheep are kept as pasture control, as pets, or for petting zoos. They are sometimes used in cross breeding operations, because of lower maintenance, but care must be given that the ewes are not too much smaller than the breed of the ram, or there will be a loss of both lambs and ewes at lambing time.
A friendly 1 month old ewe lamb, photo by authors daughter.
The color ranges from light tan to dark brown. There should be no solid white markings, although white hairs are allowed. Black should extend on the chin, throat, belly, and the legs, as well as the underside of the tail and ears. They may have some wool, but should be mostly “hair” which sheds in the spring to a thinner, shorter, coat. The tails are short or reach to the hocks, but do not require docking as in other breeds.
A young, 1 year old, ram. Photo by Author, he has excellent coloring, but horns closer to the head would be preferred.
The average height on a male at the withers is 80 centimeters in the rams, and 65 centimeters in the ewes, with an average weight of 55 kg for rams, and 45 kg for ewes. They tend to have a “thinner” look than most wool breeds, and in fact their meat is less fatty, but well muscled.
As one year olds it is preferred that they only have one lamb, but in subsequent years they may have one or two lambs, (sometimes even three) and the ewes are generally good mothers. Additionally they can breed at any time of the year.
Painting by Author. This was our first ram, although beautiful, he failed to produce any lambs.
Barbado sheep tend to have a better resistance to parasites. Because they can grow longer hair in the colder months, and shed in the summer, they are also quite tolerant of weather extremes (wool sheep suffer in the heat unless they get their wool sheared). Of course, like any animal, they should have shelter in the winter in the form of a barn.
Published in: Rural Living