About Dorper Sheep

The Dorper breed was developed in South Africa in the 1930s and 40s using the Horned Dorset and Blackheaded Persian. Selection was made to produce top carcass characteristics and the ability to thrive under harsh, arid conditions. (Somewhat like West Texas?)

The Dorper has a white body with a black head, while the White Dorper is all white.   Otherwise the two types are identical but are considered separate breeds.  The coat is a mixture of hair and short wool which is shed, eliminating the need for shearing. Mature rams weigh between 225 and 275 lbs. Mature ewes average 160-220 pounds. They are naturally polled, rams usually have minimal horn development. Dorpers have calm dispositions.

Characteristics that also drew us to the breed include:

    * Hardy and Adaptable

    * Excellent Maternal Qualities

    * Long Breeding Season - our first ewes bred at 10 months, 2 delivered twins, and bred back in 4-6 weeks.  Two ewes gave us 10 lambs in 18 months.

    * Reproductive Efficiency-lambing rates of 180% can be achieved.

    * Prepotency - Dorpers cross well with other breeds and produce fast growing, muscular lambs. See our photos for examples of crossbred ewes.

    * Non-Selective Grazers - Dorpers are excellent converters of a wide range of forage types, which makes them well suited to West Texas pastures.  They are docile and don't challenge the fences.

    * Heat and Insect Tolerant - Due to their area of origin, Dorper sheep have natural tolerance to heat and heavy insect populations. Heat is always a major consideration in Texas.



Perhaps the most important attribute of these sheep is they do not require shearing.  Their covering is a combination of loose wool and hair fibers.  The wool sheds off in the springtime, much to the delight of many nesting birds.  However, this is an attribute that must be selected for.  It is a major criteria for the flock sheep here at Stone Axe Farm. 

Here's a Dorper ram fully shed out in his summer cover.  Often a row of heavier cover is left along the top, which provides protection from the sun and insects.   This is “Dude”, the sire of many of our good ewes.   



American Dorper Sheep Breeders Society members can have their Fullblood (100% South African genetics) and American Purebred (upgraded to 15/16ths Dorper genetics) sheep officially inspected under the recently adopted South African Breed Standard of Excellence.  Under this system, five types of quality are judged:


      Type 5- Very Good-Stud Quality

      Type 4- Above Average, Stud Quality

      Type 3- Commercial Quality - First Selection

      Type 2- Commercial Quality - Second Selection

      Type 1- Cull

An animal is typed based on the evaluations of the following:

       Conformation (Head, Forequarter, Barrel, Hindquarter, Sexual Organs)


      Size or Growth


      Distribution of Fat


      Color Pattern




      The ADSBS periodically holds judging courses, however; at this time the Society relies on South African certified inspectors.  Upon inspection, qualifying animals will be ear tagged with appropriate color coded and sequentially numbered tags.  Type 5 - Blue, Type 4 - Red, and Type 3 - White.  The inspector will apply the tags as the animals are being judged.

      Note:  The term Stud Quality comes from the fact that South African breeding farms are called stud farms.  Hence animals that qualify as "stud quality", both ewes and rams, are of sufficient quality to be placed on breeding farms and used to enhance the breed.  Commercial quality animals accurately represent the breed and possess the traits valued in commercial operations.  Cull animals possess one or more faults serious enough that they should not be used for breeding purposes.

Showing Dorper Sheep

Notice this photo of a South African Ram, where up to about 2 inches of wool is permitted  for showing.  Here in the USA, sheep must be slick shorn, enabling a judge to quickly see the true conformation of the sheep.  While it seems odd to require the sheep to be shorn, this method enables "what you see is what you get" for meat attributes.

Dorper Sheep are now shown at many major stock shows and state fairs.  The ADSBS has begun an exciting youth program to introduce young agriculture students to this exciting breed.

For more information, be sure to visit the website of the American Dorper Sheep Breeders’ Society.  The ADSBS is the only registry that is non-profit and actively promotes the breed and helps members by providing education and marketing opportunities.  Visit the site at www.dorper.org


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