The ancestral wild stock of both the thin-tailed and the fat-tailed sheep is identical. Fat-tailed sheep made their first appearance in Africa (Egypt) at the beginning of the second millennium. Waves of this sheep type probably entered Africa at various occasions through both the straits of Suez and Bab el Mandeb. From Egypt, the population spread westwards into Libya, Tunisia and eastern Algeria, but did not extend to the south. The group that entered through Bab el Mandeb extended from Ethiopia into the lake region of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, but did not enter into Congo. The particular relevance of the fat deposit in the tail to pastoral communities as a source of energy-rich food might have contributed to the extensive replacement of the original thin-tailed sheep by the fat-tailed types. The fat-tailed, hair sheep inhabits the whole of eastern and southern Africa from Ethiopia southwards. They are very variable in tail form and in extent of woolly undercoat. Fat-tailed breeds of sheep with hairy (carpet wool) fleece extend westwards as far as Tunisia, while Algeria and Morocco have breeds with the same hairy fleece, but thin tails (Epstein, 1971; Ryder, 1984).
Breed Origin :
As for the Ethiopian highland sheep, the Afar probably originated from very early importations from Arabia but the tail shape is different and these sheep carry no wool. There is very little difference between this type and the types in northern limit in Eritrea and southern Djibouti (Wilson, 1991).
Inhabits the coastal strip of the Danakil depression and the associated Rift Valley in Ethiopia, with the Afar nomadic pastoralists; to the south-east it extends as far as Dire Dawa and in the north as far as Bati; the breed also spread westwards over the escarpments to highlands of up to 1500 m altitude; the climate is mainly desert, but also semi-arid in higher altitude areas; rainfall is erratic and ranges from 300 to 700 mm, and the region is drought prone (Galal, 1983; Wilson, 1991).
A hardy breed adapted to drought prone arid and semi-arid areas of the middle Awash valley of eastern Ethiopia; has a typical fat pad on the nose and behind the poll; both sexes are hornless; ears are short and pricked, and vestigial ears are common; small head with facial profile slightly convex in males but straight in females; the dewlap is pronounced; poorly fleshed; fat tail is shield shaped and descends to the hocks, with short S-shaped upturned tip; coat colour is off-white to sandy; coat has short and stiff hair (Galal, 1983; Wilson, 1991).