What are the best sheep breeds for wool? Well, not all sheep fleece is the same. Numerous sheep breeds for wool get used for creating a long list of products. Some sheep wool is finer and sells at high prices. Some are ideal for socks and knitwear, while other wool varieties are best for creating odor-resistant garments.
With countless hundreds of sheep breeds, finding the best ones for your wool needs can be challenging. But no worries! You can discover the 15 best breeds for wool. Right here.
Then let’s begin!
- Why Breed Sheep for Wool?
- Understanding Wool Production
- 15 Sheep Breeds for Wool
- Which Sheep Should You Breed for Wool?
Why Breed Sheep for Wool?
Breeding sheep for wool may seem old-fashioned, but it’s a trend in resurgence as people work to create more sustainable lives. Breeders can use wool to produce clothing, rugs, insulation, crafts, furniture, wool fleeces, and more. Wool can also be an effective block for weeds on driveways and walkways.
Understanding Wool Production
The raw wool fibers turn into a piece of fabric via one of two systems. The two systems are the worsted or the woolen processing systems. Woolen yarn usually derives from short fibers from sheep’s fleece. Worsted yarn is from higher-quality wool acquired through sheering.
The following are the steps involved in wool production:
- Shearing: Removing the wool from the sheep’s body
- Scouring: Washing the sheep’s fleece to remove grease, dust, and dirt
- Sorting: Separating high-quality wool from lower-quality wool
- Combing: Removing tiny knots and burrs from the sheep’s fleece
- Carding: Individually separating the fibers to remove impurities
- Dyeing: Changing the color of the sheep wool with dye
- Spinning: Straightening and spinning dyed fibers to make yarn
15 Sheep Breeds for Wool
Fifteen sheep breeds stand out from hundreds as the best for producing wool. Many also make excellent meat and dairy sheep, which means they can serve multiple purposes on your farm or homestead.
Here are our favorites.
1. Bluefaced Leicester (or Blue-Faced Leicester)
The Bluefaced Leicester gets its name from the dark skin beneath the hair on its nose. This breed originated in the United Kingdom. It got exported to Canada in the ’70s. They now stretch prominently across the U.S. and the Canadian provinces.
The Bluefaced Leicester breed is known for its meat and white curly wool. It’s an ideal wool for hand spinning and is excellent for socks and knitwear.
2. Merino Sheep
Merino sheep are favorites among breeders for their fine wool. Its tremendously valuable wool can be so thin that it looks more like a cobweb than sheep’s wool. Merino wool is soft and luxurious. It’s also one of the highest-priced wools available.
Merino sheep’s wool is ideal for close-to-skin fabrics and baby clothing. You’ll find it used to make high-quality long underwear for layering or athletic clothes.
Panama sheep are perfect for a combination of wool and meat production. The wool tends to be coarse and is significantly thicker than Merino wool. It’s a favorite for making socks, hats, and other knitwear.
Panama sheep are found in Idaho and Montana – but have become rare recently. However, they’re adaptable sheep that can survive in cold, harsh climates due to their large size and coarse wool.
4. East Friesian
The East Friesian sheep breed comes from northern Germany and then went to the United States in 1994. We’re not sure what took so long! However, it quickly became a popular breed for its high milk production.
The East Friesian breed produces delicious and savory milk plus white and dark brown wool. It is a medium-quality springer wool and makes an ideal binder for fiber blends.
5. Leicester Longwool Sheep
Leicester Longwool sheep are considered threatened and are rare to find across the United States. However, ewes produce between 6 to 14 pounds of wool at a time! And males deliver 9 to 20 pounds. Their wool is extremely curly and often forms lovely locks.
Leicester Longwool wool has a high luster and takes dye well. It can be soft enough to use for next-to-skin garments. Leicester is also a desirable sheep breed because breeders can sheer the sheep twice yearly. That’s double the yield for some breeders! Other popular sheep breeds, such as Rambouillet and Merino sheep, only get shorn once per year.
Rambouillet sheep get bred for their meat and high-quality wool. The breed originated in France during the 18th century but came to the U.S. in the late 1800s.
The Rambouillet is generally a large animal. Their hefty frame means breeders can sheer more wool compared to other breeds. The wool length is generally 2 to 4 inches, and it’s fine enough to make gentle, close-to-body clothing and other garments.
Rambouillet sheep populations exist across the western United States. And they can thrive in nearly all climates. They’re versatile and profitable sheep to own.
7. Booroola Merino
These lovely Booroola Merino sheep first existed in Australia but were later imported to the USA. It’s a famous sheep breed for its high-quality, dense wool.
This breed of sheep can produce fine wool that’s typically 3 to 4 inches long. It gets used for odor-resistant garments and clothing that fit close to the body. It’s useful for workout gear, long underwear, and more.
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Delaine-Marino is another sheep breed that produces fine wool ideal for odor-resistant and close-fitting garments. It’s a popular breed because it can thrive in many environments and makes high-quality wool. Delaine-Marino sheep are generally bred solely for wool production.
9. American Cormo
The American Cormo is a sheep hailing from Tasmania. It came to the U.S. in 1976 via exportation. Breeders enjoy the American Cormo for its cost-effectiveness, as it is a breed known for eating a smaller amount of food than most. They can also thrive in a variety of outdoor environments.
The American Cormo’s wool is generally white, semi-thin, and 2.5 to 4 inches thick. Like merino wool, it’s excellent for close-to-body clothing.
Targhee is a favorite sheep breed for soft, fine wool with excellent elasticity. It often gets used to make close-to-skin fabrics and garments. Each female sheep can produce 10 to 14 pounds of wool.
Targhee is a medium to large sheep breed that thrives in the western United States, specifically Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. It is a dual-purpose sheep bred for wool and meat production.
11. Finnish Landrace
Many outerwear and blankets get made from wool, and Finnish Landrace is a perfect breed to provide it. This breed produces medium-fine sheep wool that is soft with good elasticity. The fleece tends to grow clean on the sheep due to less lanolin than other breeds, which makes production more efficient.
The Finnish Landrace is a hardy (and fertile) sheep that can survive and thrive in harsh climates. While this sheep is native to Finland, they exist throughout much of Northern Europe.
Romney is one of the world’s most popular dual-purpose sheep breeds for its wool and meat. It is a long wool sheep with thick wool favored for its elasticity and luster. It is a coarser wool. It is not for close-to-skin clothing but is excellent for carpets, rugs, baskets, and outerwear. Many people prefer this wool for its unique, earthy color.
13. Border Leicester Sheep
The Border Leicester is another longwool breed that originated in England. It then got exported to the U.S., Australia, and beyond.
The Border Leicester produces more coarse sheep wool. It is best for heavy-weight garments and other home items like carpets and rugs. It is also a favorite among spinners for its lustrous fleece and crimps.
Additionally, the Border Leicester breed is generally docile and are excellent dairy sheep for producing milk. Breeders enjoy numerous benefits from this easy-to-manage and hardy sheep.
The Wensleydale is another favorite longwool sheep for its fine, lustrous wool. This sheep is known for the length of its fluffy wool. The wool’s lengthy growing nature makes it more profitable than other breeds with shorter coats.
Wensleydale sheep’s wool is not ideal for close-to-skin fabrics. But it’s excellent for blending and mixing with upholstery or cloth fabrics. It also gets used for making rugs and outerwear.
Teeswater sheep are another dual-purpose breed used for wool and meat production. Hand-knitters love this wool for its unique sheen and strength! It is perfect for combining with other yarns.
Fibers from younger sheep tend to be soft and silky, while older sheep yield coarser wool. However, the rougher sheep wool is more durable and ideal for making durable wool items.
Which Sheep Should You Breed for Wool?
Choosing the best sheep to breed for wool depends on numerous factors, such as the type of wool you prefer, the local climate, and whether you want to raise the sheep for meat and dairy too.
Some breeds have colored fleeces. While others are stronger and some are extremely fine. Breeders looking to create outerwear, carpets, and rugged items will prefer a breed with coarser wool. Those seeking to produce soft, close-to-skin garments might benefit from a sheep breed with fine, high-quality fibers.
Breeding sheep can be extremely rewarding, as they can provide wool, dairy, and more for your homestead. Raising sheep for wool can be profitable for those selling wool, dairy, and other sheep-related products.
However, it’s important to remember that raising sheep is a serious responsibility. Be sure to thoroughly research the breed you choose and its desired living conditions before bringing the sheep home to your farm or homestead.
Thanks for helping us brainstorm the 15 best sheep breeds for wool.
We shared some of our favorites for any backyard flock.
What about you? Which wooly sheep is your favorite?
Or maybe you have experience raising a sheep breed that we forgot to cover?
Either way – we would love to hear your thoughts.
And thanks again for reading.
Have a great day!