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15 Best Sheep Breeds for Wool! [Fine Clothing, Socks, and Sweaters!]

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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. 

Merino sheep on a lovely summer day.

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.

Sound good?

Then let’s begin!

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.

There are countless uses for sheep‘s wool. Breeding your sheep can make you more self-reliant, as you can make many products everybody else buys in stores. 

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)

bluefaced leicester are one of the best sheep breeds for wool
We’re starting our list of the best sheep for wool with one of the undeniable wooly champions. The Bluefaced Leicester! Bluefaced Leicester sheep derive from Border Leicester sheep. Breeders selectively reproduced Border Leicester sheep with a preference for bluish countenance and beautifully fluffy fleece. We read from the NC Extension that the thick and curly Bluefaced Leicester fleeces can weigh up to 20 pounds. That’s a ton of wool! Also – their faces aren’t exactly blue. However, their faces may appear a bluish tint due to the blending contrast of white hair on their black faces.

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 well-known to be awesome sheep breeds for wool
Make way for the comfiest wool champion! Merino sheep are famous for their elegantly smooth wool. It’s perfect for soft, fine clothing. Many reliable sources cite how Merino sheep (along with Rambouillet) command the highest prices for their wool products.

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. 

3. Panama

Panama sheep Top  #7 Facts
We love Panama sheep. And they’re an underrated sheep for heavy, long wool. The Panama sheep breed comes from crossbreeding Lincoln ewes and Rambouillet rams. Panama sheep aren’t from Panama. They’re American – and hail from Idaho, USA. They famously appeared during the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in California. We also read an old 1952 Panama sheep term paper published on the University of Idaho website archives entitled A Brief History of Panama Sheep. The report records the fleece weight from mature Panama sheep ewes as roughly 13.2 pounds. (Not as ample as the Bluefaced Leicester. And we realize the data is markedly old! But we found the entire report fascinating, especially since finding reliable Panama sheep data elsewhere is nearly impossible due to the breed’s absolute rarity.)

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

two friesian lambs on green grass pasture. Friesians are great sheep breeds for wool
Look at these cuties! Here’s a sheep breed famous for being perhaps the best dairy goat on any farm. The East Friesian! This breed is perfect if your homestead seeks a hard-working wool sheep capable of producing boatloads of delicious milk. We read that the average East Friesian ewe only yields 4.5 kg of wool – just under 10 pounds. However, their unbeatable milk-producing skills counteract (make up for) their lack of wool production. (How good are their sheep milk skills, exactly? Well – The East Friesian produces anywhere from 300 to 600 liters of milk per lactation! Hope you’re thirsty.)

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 ewes on a winter morning with thick fluffy wool - one of the best sheep breeds for wool.
These beautiful farmyard sheep look like mythical Jim Henson puppets. And their longwool is majestic. They’re so cool looking! But don’t consider raising these creatures just due to their neat appearance – they offer so much more. They’re famously adapt foragers and happily accommodate themselves with whatever ground cover you can spare. Their wool is also fantastic. And elegant! Unfortunately, the Livestock Conservancy lists Leicesters as threatened. Raise some if you can! They’re worthy of saving, and their stunning fleeces can weigh 11 to 20 pounds.

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.

Your Guide to the Differences Between Sheep and Lambs (and Why It Matters)

6. Rambouillet

Rambouillet sheep lounging in a grassy field.

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

Booroola Merino ewes 13-14 months Roseville Park bld April shorn.
Booroola Merino sheep are one of the best sheep breeds for fluffy wool. They’re also great if you want to amass an army of sheep on your farm! Here’s why. Booroola Merinos are famous for giving birth to multiple lambs. They have tremendous fertility – one of the highest of any sheep breed we’ve seen. (We read that the average Booroola Merino sheep lambing is 2.4.)

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. 

Read More!

8. Delaine-Marino

Nascita Merinos Delaine
Delaine Merino is another lovely Merino variety known for its smooth skin. Plus, their elegant and oily fleece. Many homesteaders and ranchers consider Delaine Merino the ultimate farmyard fleece sheep, and their wool is pricey – and valuable. They’re also famous for thriving in the Southwestern and Western US states. (But you can find Delaine Merino sheep herds everywhere – from Australia, New Zealand, Michigan, Pennsylvania, to New York.)

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

cormo sheep ewe standing in a grassy field
Cormo sheep are large, fluffy, and friendly! And contrary to their name, American Cormo sheep developed in Australia. Not America. (It’s true! Even the American Cormo Sheep Association says they are an Australian breed.) Even though they hail from Australia, you can find them worldwide – including USA, China, and Europe. Cormo sheep developed from Saxon Merino sheep and Corriedale rams. The name Cormo is the resulting portmanteau of the two parent breeds. The goal was to create a more fertile, larger-framed wool specimen. Mission accomplished!

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.

10. Targhee

Targhee Sheep - Sheep Breed Series
Targhee sheep are another lovely dual-purpose breed with excellent meat and wool qualities. The US Targhee Sheep Association website also conveys helpful wool and fleece data. Their website says mature Targhee ewes produce around ten to twelve pounds – and mature rams produce upwards of 22 pounds! (Grease wool.) Most ranchers would agree that Targhee sheep are excellent farmyard companions. And wool producers!

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

fluffy landrace sheep with thick white wool
Finnish Landrace sheep – or Finnsheep are famous native Finlanders famous for lovely, fluffy, and medium wool. Their wool is excellent for thick winter sweaters and warm wooly socks. They also remind us of the Booroola Merino! Both sheep breeds are known for their high fertility and for birthing multiple lambs. (Wikipedia says Finnish Landrace sheep can produce up to five lambs at once. They can help you expand your flock fast!)

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. 

12. Romney

romney sheep standing in the shearing shed
Here’s another breathtaking farmyard beauty with long wool and a large, fluffy face. The Romney! These sheep also go by many names, including the Romney Marsh or Kent. It’s famous in the UK and England for excellent wool and meat production. We also read on Wikipedia that Romney sheep are highly resistant to foot rot – a problem that plagues sheep herds dwelling in swampy, wet, or damp forage pastures.

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

leicester sheep lounging in the pasture on a beautiful sunny day
When planning our best sheep breeds for wool, we knew the Border Leicester sheep deserved a prominent spot. They’re a famous polled and dual-purpose sheep breed perfect for small homesteads requiring wool and meat. We also read from the American Border Leicester Association that their thick and long wool is excellent for hand spinning. They’re also a beautiful large-framed sheep breed – and their personalities are amiable and docile.

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. 

14. Wensleydale

wooly wensleydale sheep standing in thick forage grass
We saved one of the heaviest-hitting wool sheep breeds for the later-half of our list. The mighty Wensleydale! Wensleydale sheep hail from Wensleydale, North Yorkshire. Their face reminds us of the Bluefaced Leicester, which also appears gray, black, or blue. While famous in the UK, you can also find Wensleydale sheep throughout Europe and the USA.

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. 

15. Teeswater

luxurious and elegant teeswater sheep relaxing in the barn
We’re finishing our list of the best sheep for wool with one of our favorite and sadly-neglected breeds. Teeswater sheep! We read from the Teeswater Sheep Society of North America that their fleece grows upwards of an inch monthly. Nice! They hail from Great Britain. They were once prominent throughout the USA. However, like other lesser-known sheep, they lost prominence over the centuries due to the profitability of other productive wool sheep. (The Livestock Conservancy lists Teeswater sheep as critical. Support them if you can. They’re lovely farm animals – with beautiful wool.)

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.  

Conclusion

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!

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