Jacob Sheep Facts

 Adapted from JSBA information


    Jacob sheep are a primitive breed of sheep, meaning that they have not been commercially "improved" or selectively bred to be large, meaty, wooly, etc. The name comes from the biblical story of Jacob (Genesis) and the colored sheep, but the actual true origins are unknown. The breed is thought to be more than 3000 years old. Their unique appearance has helped to cultivate their popularity in Britain and now in the US and Canada.


     Jacobs are considered a small sheep breed with mature ewes weighing 80-120 lbs and mature rams weighing 120-180 lbs. They are a polycerate breed, meaning they can have multiple horns. Males and females are horned, and can have 2, 4, 5, or even 6 horns. The horns can be black or black and white striped. The horns should never curl dangerously close to the face or body. They have white wool with a varied number of colored patches, either black or a grayish color called lilac. The colored wool fades in direct sunlight, creating a brownish coloration. They can have brown, blue, or marbled eyes. The ears are small and erect. They have a slender head and legs, giving them a deer-like appearance. They should have a white blaze with colored eye patches that may extend to cover the cheeks. Fleece is medium grade with a length of 3-7 inches per year.


     Jacob sheep are more goat-like than sheep-like in their personalities. They are outgoing, curious, and intelligent. They easily become very friendly and many individuals love to be petted and scratched. They do not have a strong herding instinct like other sheep breeds, and will scatter when chased. Many people have learned the hard way that herding dogs do not work for Jacobs!


    Jacobs are generally a very hardy breed and are considered to be "easy-keepers." They are naturally parasite resistant, and thrive even with the poorest forage conditions. They suffer few hoof problems, and are resistant to Scrapie, a serious sheep and goat disease. They generally give birth with few complications to a single lamb or twins. Triplets or more are rare. They are excellent mothers, and usually provide ample milk for their lambs. They can live to be in their late teens and even twenties!


     Jacobs are mainly a wool producing breed. Their fleece is prized by hand spinners and crafters. They can also be used for meat, pelts/rugs, and horn products such as buttons and decorative knife handles. Many people keep them just for the beautiful and unique appearance of the spotted wool and multiple horns.