Dorper Breed

Looking for something different then the Dorper Sheep is definitely for you, with their attractive features, wool shedding ability and carcase conformation this makes the Dorper a popular choice amongst the small holder and commercial farmer. The Dorper is a fast growing meat producing sheep, that is particularly known for its ability to adapt and survive in a variety of climatic and grazing conditions. Dorpers were created in South Africa in 1942 by crossing imported Dorset Horn Rams from the UK onto their native Persian Black Headed ewes. The South African Department of Agriculture and a group of farmers decided to develop a new sheep breed able to produce a maximum number of lambs with good meat qualities which could be marketed off extensive grazing conditions.

The Dorper and White Dorper is a relatively new breed in Great Britain the UK Dorper Sheep Society was founded in 2004 and currently has thirty two members. It is however quite ironic to think that genetics exported from the UK seventy plus years ago have found their way back in a new breed. In all breeds of sheep, through the use of genetically superior rams and genetic selection it can quickly improve the genetic merit of any flock.

Dorper sheep are farmed all over the world and have the potential to adapt to the many varying climates and grazing conditions from the Southern to the Northern hemisphere therefore, making the Dorper sheep a popular choice worldwide. There increasing popularity and suitability to most climate conditions have seen a dramatic increase in numbers in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Making the Dorper and the White Dorper currently the most popular sheep breed in Australia.

There are two distinct types of Dorper sheep – the Black headed and the White Dorper. The only difference being the colour. The Black headed Dorper is in fact a white Dorper with a large black spot. Despite this difference, the term ‘Dorper’ is often used to describe both breed types.

Dorper sheep are one of the most fertile of sheep breeds in the world. They have a long breeding season and are not affected by seasonal change. Therefore, Dorper ewes are polyoestrus and will breed all year round suiting all sheep systems. It is possible to have lambing intervals of eight months, resulting in 3 crops of lambs in 2 years. This coupled with the fact that multiple births are prevalent, means that flock size can be increased more quickly than with most other sheep breeds. Dorpers and White Dorper sheep often achieve lambing percentages in excess of 170% when breeding at any time of the year.

Dorpers are also a shedding sheep, which means they shed their winter coat naturally, thus eliminating the need for mechanical shearing. This in turn, makes the Dorper sheep the perfect choice of breed for small holders. They may find it difficult to get a shearer to come and shear a small number of sheep.   Also, because the underbelly stays clean, shearing and crutching for lambing are unnecessary, an important economic and time management consideration for the producer. Their fleece is a short, with a loose covering of hair and wool. Due to the wool being fine, the wool that is shed does not litter up the fields and blows away in the wind.


Dorpers shed from the bottom up. In South Africa they retain a light coating of wool on top to protect them from sun. So far, they’ve tended to keep some wool on top here but the rest of the animal is clean reducing flystrike in the summer months. With little or no wool production, the energy that would go into producing wool is diverted to meat production.


Dorper lambs mature earlier and as such, can be slaughtered to produce a carcase of 20 to 22 kg by 16 to 18 weeks of age. The ability of this breed to put grass into weight gain is remarkable. Add to that the fact the taste and eating quality of the lamb, along with the flavour of intramuscular fat and a large eye muscle makes the Dorper and White Dorper an increasing popular choice for the fat lamb market. Dorper sheep are selective foragers and will thrive on long grasses, weeds and poorer quality grazing.   They require a good quantity of forage in their diets thus reducing the amount of concentrates required. Therefore, decreasing production costs and increasing profitability!!


Why the Dorper is an excellent breed choice?

  • Adaptability to and hardiness for a variety of climatic and grazing conditions
  • High fertility and reproduction rates
  • High growth rates with the ability to achieve maximum growth from little feed
  • Good muscling and low fat score
  • Thick quality skin for protection in harsh climate conditions
  • Excellent mothering qualities and milk production
  • Low maintenance – minimal shearing required, no crutching as no wool in that area
  • More Parasite resistant than other breeds of sheep.
  • Dorper ewes are polyoestrus and will breed all year round.