eNZees Blog

The Woolly World of Sheep

by Jill Schuman | June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

With over 300 breeds of sheep around the world, understanding the difference between a Romney and a Rambouillet can be a bit confusing – or shall we say, woolly. Sheep are one of the most common agricultural animals, bred for their wool, milk, meat, and even for their good looks. Here’s a selection of some of our favorite sheep breeds.

Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic Sheep

Or shall we say Viking sheep? The Icelandic Sheep was brought to this small island nation by early Norwegian settlers. It’s as cold hardy as its forbearers and thrives in harsh, inhospitable environments. They’re raised primarily for their meat, but the wool is becoming sought after for its unique texture and quality.


Herdwick Sheep Lake District England

Herdwick Sheep Grazing on the Old Man of Coniston, Cumbria Photo courtesy of Barry Marsh

 The author Beatrix Potter (of Peter Rabbit) was a great champion of the Herdwick. She won a number of prizes for her show ewes and donated 4,000 acres of farmland to the National Trust. The Herdwick is traditionally raised in the Lake District in the north of England. This is another hearty breed – Herdwick’s have been known to survive for three days in the snow, eating their own wool (which, incidentally, is highly prized for its anti-blizzard properties!)

Coburger Fuchsschaf

Coburger Fuchsschaf sheep Germany 

This reddish-brown German sheep was nearly wiped out during World War II. Their distinct color is most pronounced in lambs, but adult sheep retain some of that rich hue around their heads and legs. After a recent movement to preserve the breed, the Coburger Fuchsschaf is now used primarily in landscape preservation.

Manx Loaghtan

Manx Loughtan sheep Isle of Man


Count ‘em – four, sometimes six horns on a single sheep! The Manx Loaghtan is a rare Northern European breed that exists primarily on the Isle of Man. Its meat is considered a delicacy, though the wool is often used in various tweeds.


 Romney sheep new zealand

Originally from England, you can now find Romney sheep all over the world – from New Zealand to the United States. It produces a strong, heavy wool that is often used in rugs and cushions. If you’re looking to take up handspinning, Romney wool is great for beginners as its fibers are significantly longer than other breeds, like Merino.


 Rambouillet merino sheep

Photo courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Also known as the French Merino, the Rambouillet officially became a breed when King Louis XVI purchased 300 Spanish Merinos for his royal farm. The Rambouillet produces beautiful merino wool, but is also prized for its meat as well.


Tagged: coburger fuchsschaf sheep, difference in sheep breeds, different breeds of sheep, herdwick sheep, herdwick sheep lake district, icelandic sheep, manx loaghtan sheep, rambouillet merino sheep, romney sheep

Add a Comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up.