Sheep are a popular addition to farms, not only for their wool but also for their meat and milk. In the last few years, records show a rise in the popularity of people keeping sheep as pets. Overall, sheep are relatively docile and gentle and often respond well to human interaction. However, some sheep breeds are friendlier than others. Which begs the question, what breed of sheep is friendliest?
Suffolk sheep are considered to be one of the friendliest breeds of sheep. However, several others should also be mentioned, including Polypay, Cotswold, Dorset, Border Leicesters, Barbados Blackbelly, and Katahdin sheep breeds. Females and castrated males are friendlier than whole males.
Most sheep breeds exhibit docile natures, making them optimal pets and suitable options to keep on petting farms. Some breeds are friendlier than others and, therefore, easier to work with, whether you are a beginner small or large-scale farmer, wish to add a couple of sheep to your petting farm, or want to add some additions to your family menagerie. Any of the following breeds would be an optimal choice.
What Is The Friendliest Breed Of Sheep?
Friendly, Hardy, and Adaptable: Why the Suffolk Sheep is a Top Choice
The consensus is that if you are looking for the friendliest breed of sheep, you can’t go wrong with getting yourself a couple of Suffolk. These sheep are known for their calmness and strange black faces. They are one of the bigger sheep breeds, with black faces, white wool, and long, black legs, and you will often come across them in showing competitions.
Besides their friendly nature, Suffolks are popular for several reasons, including the following:
- They are often hornless
- Their heads are woolless
- They produce good lamb
- They are good mothers
- They are rather prolific
All of these characteristics make them good options for both small and large-scale farming, as well as for pets.
Other Friendly Breeds Of Sheep
While we now know that many people consider Suffolk, the friendliest breed of sheep, they are not the only option. Several others could also take the title of friendliest breed of sheep, and your choice might come down to what other distinguishing characteristics they possess that could add to their social nature and make them your top choice.
The Polypay breed is more of a hybrid breed resulting from crosses between the Targhee/Dorset and Rambouillet/Finnsheep. The Polypay “breed” came about after farmers in the 1970s cross-bred their sheep to produce a type of sheep that met their specific demands. They are easy to work with, easy to handle, relatively docile, and overall productive sheep.
Other characteristics that make them popular include the following:
- They can happily survive on grass.
- They make excellent mothers.
- A higher yearly birth rate is likely with the potential of out-of-season lambing.
- They produce one wool crop per year.
- They feature a heavy carcass weight.
The Cotswold breed is another large sheep breed from England and another option for the friendliest breed of sheep. They are known for their docile natures and make excellent additions to small or large-scale farms. It has been reported by some Cotswold sheep owners that their sheep develop strong bonds with their human caretakers, exhibiting affectionate behavior similar to that of a dog.
Other characteristics that make the Cotswold a popular breed of sheep include the following:
- They are excellent mothers.
- Mature sheep weigh between 200 and 300 pounds.
- Produce silky, lustrous wool with fibers that range in diameter from 33 – 42 microns.
- Their fleece hangs in locks that can reach 7 – 13 inches long, weighing approximately 13 – 15 pounds.
Dorset sheep are the perfect option for beginners, as they are a solid breed with lovely docile characteristics. They are easy to work with and are known to be good mothers, and their medium size makes them easier to handle and keep. Another bonus to their nature is that this breed is often versatile and easily adaptable.
With the Dorset breed, you can choose between two variations: the commercial and the show. The commercial variant is more heavy set but shorter. Owners of the show variant breed them for showing, so they are a bit taller with less focus on production, selected for looks rather than their production qualities.
Other characteristics that make the Dorset a popular choice include the following:
- Multiple birth rate
- They might breed out of season
- Can happily survive in grass-based operations
- Easy to find polled Dorset
- Produce a desirable carcass
Known for their calm demeanor, Border Leicesters are an excellent option if you seek the friendliest breed of sheep. Not only are they friendly, but they are also rather attractive, a bit taller than other sheep breeds, and feature a lovely clean head with no wool. In addition, this breed is famous for fast-growing lambs and good-looking upright carriages.
Other characteristics that make Border Leicester a popular choice include the following:
- They produce long good-quality fleece
- Good maternal characteristics
- Fast growing
- They are a good option for creating hybrids
Barbados Blackbelly Sheep
This lovely breed of sheep originated on Barbados island, and they are a perfect option for beginners as they are friendly, easy to keep healthy, and weather resistant. Their weather resistance translates to their high tolerance for different weather conditions, including snow and cold weather, high humidity, and high temperatures.
Other characteristics that make Barbados Blackbelly sheep a popular choice include the following:
- They are known for their ability to produce twins and often even triplets.
- They can have lambs twice a year if allowed.
- They are resistant to many diseases.
- They can withstand many of the effects of internal parasites.
- They are excellent foragers.
- They are hair sheep.
This type of sheep is an excellent choice, especially for children, as they exhibit a lovely docile nature, making them a top contender for the friendliest breed of sheep. Some sheep belonging to this breed will need to be polled for safety, but other than that, the Katahdin is very hardy and low maintenance, making them a perfect choice for beginner farmers.
Other characteristics that make Katahdin a popular choice include the following:
- They are an excellent option for meat production.
- You will not need to shear them.
- Can live in a variety of climates.
- They feature a high parasite resistance.
Key Considerations When Selecting the Friendliest Breed Of Sheep
The one thing to remember when choosing the right sheep breed or the right sheep for you is that, just like humans, individual personalities can differ. For example, even though people might consider a particular breed to be overall friendly, you might get a skittish and unfriendly sheep due to its unique characteristics.
Therefore even though Suffolks are known to be one of the friendliest breeds of sheep, you might get a grumpy Suffolk that gives its breed a bad name. It all comes down to the personality of the sheep in question.
A few other aspects to consider:
- Females and castrated males are friendlier than prolific males.
- Hornless sheep are safer than horned sheep.
- Sheep are social animals and must be in flocks of at least 5.
- Cross-bred sheep tend to be healthier than their purer counterparts.
Verdict: What Breed Of Sheep Is The Friendliest?
On the whole, sheep generally have a friendly disposition and a gentle personality. It has been widely acknowledged that certain breeds are friendlier than others, such as Suffolk, Polypay, Cotswold, Dorset, Border Leicesters, Barbados Blackbelly, and Katahdin.
However, it is important to note that individual sheep can vary in personality, and even within the friendliest breeds, you may encounter an occasionally grumpy or timid animal. Additionally, ewes and neutered rams tend to be friendlier than intact males, and it is recommended to keep sheep without horns for safety reasons.