Animal Genetic Resources
International Livestock Research Institute
PO Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
General Breed Information
Breed Name/Strain :
Breed Group Name:
Fat-tailed Hair Sheep
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 :
Fat-tailed sheep arrived in South Africa between 200 and 400 AD; the Damara, Herero, Namaqua and the Kam Karrin Hottentot tribes farmed and traded with what has become the Damara sheep of today; the name is derived from the Damara area of Namibia where the largest population of the breed is found; commercialisation of the breed started at the Omatjienne Research Station near Otiwarongo in Namibia in the late 1950s, later some animals were imported to South Africa, where the breed society was established in 1992 (Ramsay et al., n.d.).
A fat-tailed, smooth haired, predominantly brown sheep; other coat colours also occur; rams are usually horned, heavy and masculine; ewes are polled and light framed; have long productive life under arid, semi-desert conditions (Ramsay et al., n.d.).