Best 14 Black Sheep Breeds for Your Own Flock

In nature, there are hardly any animals that get more attention and have more mystique than ones that are just solid black.

brown colored Icelandic sheep next to wooden fence

There’s something about it that is so mysterious, regal, and maybe even a little intimidating you just can’t help but be charmed by them.

Even when it comes to raising our own sheep, there are black breeds or sub breeds out there that are just waiting to be the centerpiece of your flock.

Whether you want them for wool or meat, there’s bound to be a black breed that is perfect for you. Keep reading and I’ll tell you about 14 black and partially black breeds of sheep…

All Black Breeds

The following breeds are entirely black, or nearly so, for most of their lives.

Note that some might be born with wool of a different color, or they might lose their black coloring as they age, but all are considered true black breeds.

1. Black Hawaiian

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Game, Show200lbs+Very GoodN/ANo

The Black Hawaiian is a sheep that, as you might expect, hails from Hawaii.

Notable for its pure black coloring from front to back, including its skin, and also for its magnificent horns, this breed is notable for being kept primarily for hunting on ranches and preservations.

However, this medium-sized breed is also developing a following for the quality of its meat which is said to be sweet and rich.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the ancestry of this sheep is almost totally unknown, with some scientists speculating that they have descended from other domestic breeds originally brought to the islands long ago.

But no one really knows for sure, and I think this adds to their air of mystery just fine.

2. Hebridean

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Decorative, Wool200lbs+AverageGood, bountifulNo, multiple horns

A Scottish breed that is currently threatened on conservancy rosters, the Hebridean is notable for its immense and impressive horns, typically growing as a set of four, two on either side of the head, with the lower set curving down along the jaw.

Today it is mostly a decorative or show breed, although they are capable producers of medium crimp wool and also high-quality milk.

These ruggedly independent and self-sufficient sheep are black for most of their lives, but there are also notable for losing their black color as they age, usually turning a steely gray or silver color as they get older.

3. Zwartbles

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Dual-use, meat and wool185 lbs.GoodMediocre, good for tough fabricsSome lines are polled.

An older Dutch breed that is only recently making its way to other countries in the past several decades, the Zwartbles is a medium-bodied, true dual-purpose sheep that is raised for both its wool and for its meat.

Their wool is said to be especially well-suited to making fiber that must be strong, such as for rugs, upholstery, and other coverings.

This should come in a variety of colors, most commonly white or white and black, but various shades of gray and pure black are also fairly common.

Typically, black specimens will be almost entirely black with a few dusky charcoal gray patches on their rump or flanks.

4. Black Welsh Mountain

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Dual-use, meat and wool150lbs., appx.Very GoodVery Good, dense and softYes

An ancient breed hailing from the British Isles, the Black Welsh Mountain sheep today is a truly global species, found all over the world but particularly in the United States, Europe and even parts of Asia.

Medium-bodied, the black Welsh mountain sheep is a true and distinguished dual-use breed, famous for the quality of wool and meat alike.

And, unlike many ancient Heritage breeds, the Black Welsh Mountain has maintained its rugged self-sufficiency and independence, and is perhaps most known for its amiability to poor pasture; nothing seems to stop them or make them sick!

Black Welsh mountain sheep are, as the name suggests, a pure, even and slightly lustrous black from front to back. Only their eyes are a different color, typically being a medium amber.

5. Black Katahdin

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Meat250lbs.+GoodN/ASome lines are polled; horns occur regularly.

A relatively modern creation of the United States, the Katahdin sheep is a crossbreed that was developed from various other breeds, those usually reared for wool and meat alike, to create a superb mutton breed that didn’t require any shearing.

In fact, these sheep are incapable of growing the wool that most other sheep do! If that didn’t tip you off, these sheep are kept only for their meat…

To that end, they were created to be quite large, and this is definitely a larger breed that tops out at around 250 lbs.

This is also another breed of sheep that comes in a variety of colors, but black is among the most common and the most desired.

They tend to be pure black from tail to snout, including their skin and hooves.

6. Arapawa

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Conservation, decorative, meat125lbs.AverageAverageNo.

A fascinating, ancient breed that is, practically speaking, still feral, the Arapawa has lived off the coast of New Zealand since at least the beginning of the 19th century.

No one is entirely sure how they arrived at their current destination because they aren’t truly native sheep.

Most researchers suspect they were survivors from a shipwreck carrying sheep from one point to another for whatever purpose.

Today they are kept mostly as curiosities and for conservation purposes, although for the brave owners that can handle them, they are adequate producers of meat and wool.

Their wool is dense, thick, and pure black. However, despite being a smaller breed, these sheep tend to be quite wild and challenging to handle even for experienced shepherds.

7. Suffolk

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Dual-use, meat and wool350lbs.GoodGoodYes.

One of the largest breeds commonly encountered around the world, the British Suffolk sheep is an interesting example of a black breed…

They are born pure black, entirely, but as they mature the wool covering their bodies will begin to turn white with their legs, faces and much of their head will remain black.

They are a striking breed and instantly recognizable from their size and coloration.

Fantastic grazers capable of sustaining themselves on average pasture alone, this is a dual-purpose breed that has been kept for centuries both as a source of high-quality wool and also plenty of mutton.

Partly-Black Breeds

The following breeds of sheep are partially black, either consisting of black wool alongside other colors, or having notable black features.

8. Jacob

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Decorative, Show115lbs.FairAverageNo.

Among the most popular sheep on show circuits, the Jacob sheep is most notable for its multiple horns, typically having sex and sometimes as many as eight!

Although this makes for a formidable defense against predators or for settling disputes between males, these sheep are notable both for their smaller size, usually topping out around 115 pounds, and also for their mild temperament.

Kept predominantly as show animals or for decoration, they have wool of various colors, including many shades of brown, gray, black and white although a mixed black and white is among the most common.

9. Blackhead Dorper

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?

A South African breed first created in the mid-20th century and one that has since spread around the world, we’re coming very popular in Australia in particular, the Blackhead Dorper is a medium-large breed that is kept pretty much for its meat alone.

Like many wild sheep species, the Blackhead Dorper retains its tendency to naturally shed its fleece after winter, meaning it’s almost impossible to keep them for wool production.

Or, at least, it would be a lot more trouble than it’s worth!

Typically white all over, Blackhead Dorpers have black necks and heads along with occasional speckled markings of contrasting white throughout.

10. Najdi

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Conservation; dual-use, meat and milk225lbs.GoodFairSome lines are polled

A rare heritage breed that is native to the Arabian Peninsula, the Najdi is creeping closer and closer to extinction as there are precious few of these sheep left on the registers of conservation efforts.

Tall, lanky, and kept predominantly for meat and milk (though sometimes used as wool producers), this is a medium breed identified by its height and build and also by its pale-colored wool that has black contrasting markings.

Specimens that are darkly colored all over are quite rare, because they rely on their white or off-white wool to help shield them from the oppressive heat of their natural environment.

11. Balen Welsh

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Conservation, wool150lbs.AverageVery GoodEwes polled; rams have horns

A Welsh breed that was once on the literal doorstep of extinction, only the decades-long efforts of diligent breeders have saved it from being consigned to history.

These black-faced sheep or a smaller medium size breed that have black faces, tails, and legs, contrasting handsomely with a silvery sky gray wool on their body, neck and tops of their heads.

Notable for being very self-sufficient and quite adapted to cold, inclement weather, this is one of the very best breeds of sheep for easy breeding because ewes rarely need any assistance.

However, their sharply limited numbers means they are currently in a vulnerable replenishment phase and so are rarely kept today, even though their wool is of superb quality.

12. Valais Blacknose

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Dual-use, meat and wool200lbs.+GoodGoodRarely; only a few lines are hornless.

Another ancient breed, and potentially one of the most adorable, the Valais Blacknose hails from Switzerland and has been around since at least the middle of the 1400s.

Raised pretty much since forever for both its wool and meat, as expected these sheep are most distinguishable for their jet black faces which poke out adorably from beneath their long, curly wool that’s usually an off-white or taupe color.

But these sheep also have other special qualities, namely the speed at which their wool grows.

Aside from growing an awful lot of it, it usually grows so quickly that it can be harvested twice a year.

Combining this immense wool production with those good looks means that this is one of the most sought-after breeds around, maybe even harder by the fact that it has only in the past few years been seen in any numbers outside of Switzerland.

13. Scottish Blackface

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Dual-use, meat and wool185lbs.Good, particularly leanAverageNo.

Another genuinely ancient heritage breed, and another pure white sheep with an all-black face, the Scottish Blackface has been kept for centuries as a wool producer.

In fact, they are such a reliable standby when it comes to making wool that, at one point, the wool of this breed alone made up more than a third of that produced in all of Europe.

There are also many lines of the Scottish blackface, some with or without horns, and some growing considerably larger than the typical 155-pound benchmark this breed is known for.

14. Hampshire

Best Use?Max WeightMeat QualityWool QualityPolled?
Dual-use, meat and wool; also very popular exhibition sheep.250lbs.GoodGoodYes, typically.

A dual-purpose breed that’s also famed for its good looks, enough that it is quickly become a staple of exhibitions and sheep shows, you might say that this is a multi-use or triple-use breed!

Large and friendly, these sheep are a favorite of small-scale and large-scale farms alike, and there are more than capable of producing huge amounts of wool of modest quality, and tons of delicious, supple mutton thanks to their muscular, athletic frames.

The Hampshire sheep is another iconic breed, white all over except for their black heads and socks covering about half of each leg.

Also notable is that lambs are born much darker, sometimes appearing nearly black, before lightening rapidly as they mature.

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