American Blackbelly Sheep

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Other common names: Barbado Sheep; Blackbelly Barbados Sheep; Barbies

The basics:
The American Blackbelly Sheep was created in the United States in the early 20th century by crossing the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep with Rambouillet Sheep and Mouflon Sheep. American Blackbelly Sheep are distinguished from the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep by their massive rack of horns.

Appearance / health:
According to the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Association International (BBSAI), "The American Blackbelly sheep is unique among hair sheep because of its exotic look and black facial bars. The breed displays the demeanor of a noble animal, which is strong, alert, well muscled, and clean cut. Along with being badger-faced, they exhibit the black markings of the on the face, legs, belly, inguinal region, chin and chest. They have an average height at their withers from 24 to 28 inches in the ewes and 30 to 32 inches in the rams. The rams are known for their massive rack of horns, with curls of 30 inches or larger in the more mature animal. Many of the characteristics and traits will not be fully recognizable until they mature."

"Body capacity should be relatively large in relation to the size of the animal. The average weight for a mature ewe will be 75 to 95 pounds; the average weight of a mature ram is 110 to 140 pounds. The body of both should be deep and wide with well-sprung ribs."

These are easy keeping, heat tolerant, very hardy sheep with few health problems. American Blackbellies are quite worm-resistant and can often be successfully raised without deworming or vaccinating. Furthermore, their tough hoofs mean that foot rot is rarely an issue.

Blackbelly sheep can be bred year-round and are fertile at as young as four months of age, although breeding this young is not ideal for the longterm development of the animal.

They grow slowly make up for this by being excellent mothers able to lamb up to three times in a 24 month period. Ewes lamb out easily on their own, without need for supplemental feed, and regularly have twins or even triplets.

Behavior / temperament:
Overall this is a productive, thrifty, prolific and energetic sheep that is fairly low maintenance to keep. This is a small- to medium-sized breed that can be quite flighty, behaving like wild animals unless intentionally tamed through regular handling. Not only do they look like antelope, they can run and jump like them, making gentle and patient interaction a necessity.

Housing / diet:
Because of their tendency to bolt in panic, solid or electronet fencing - rather than electric strand - is recommended for this breed, a minimum of four feet in height. As with all livestock, access to shelter from the elements is necessary.

American Blackbellies do well on low-quality forage and hay, without need for supplementation. They enjoy eating ‘weeds’ and the leaves and needles of some trees. They also require a reliable, fresh source of water. A good sheep mineral is important to make up for soil deficiencies, as is a salt lick.

Written by Hélène Lawler


easy keeper, gourmet quality meat, open range, low maintenance, weed control, hardy sheep


young trees


Magestic horns, Blackbelly Sheep Association, black belly, hair

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