If you picture all sheep as cute, cuddly little lambs, you might be surprised to learn just how big sheep can get. Although most domestic sheep way between 100 and 200 pounds, some breeds can actually clear 250 pounds, and some can reach a mammoth 350 pounds or more!
And, believe it or not, these huge sheep aren’t individual anomalies: some breeds really do grow quite big as a rule!
Whether you’re just a sheep admirer or you’re looking for animals that can provide you with a massive flock to call your own, you’re bound to find it on this list of the 20 largest sheep breeds in the world.
|Rams: 785, Ewes: up to 230
|Rams: 400, Ewes: 250
|Males: 300, Females: similar
|Rams: 285, Ewes: 200
|Rams: 128-315, Ewes: 75-200
|Rams: 225, Ewes: 175
|Rams: 230, Females: 150
|Males: 300, Females: 240
|Males: 90-175, Females: 70-120
|Rams: 200, Females: 150
|Rams: 200, Ewes: 160
|Welsh Mountain Sheep
|Males: 100-150, Females: varied
|Males: 275, Females: lighter
|Rams: 250, Females: 120-160
|Rams: 350+, Ewes: 240+
|Males: 300, Females: 250
|Rams: 225-275, Ewes: 150-200
|Rams: 350, Females: 250
|Rams: 220, Females: 150
Crowing our list of mammoth ruminants, the Argali is the largest living wild sheep…
Originating from the highlands of western East Asia in the Himalayas, Tibet, and the Altai Mountains, these impressive sheep are known for their long and spiraling horns, but more often for their genuinely immense size: Rams, reach up to a staggering 785 pounds! Ewes are much, much smaller, rarely topping 230 pounds.
Like other breeds, they live in herds segregated by sex except during the breeding season. Colors range from light tan to dark grey up top, and nearly white below.
The Border Leicester is a heritage breed originating from England. With a distinctive long face and upright ears giving it a unique, alert appearance, this breed is renowned for its long, sublimely lustrous wool and impressively large size.
Rams can tip the scales at nearly 400 pounds, while ewes typically weigh in at a hefty 250 pounds.
These sheep are comfortable in humid, rainy environments but can do well in a variety of other biomes as well, and like the Blackbelly elsewhere on our list, they are known for their high fertility and easy lambing, making them a popular choice among shepherds.
The Charollais sheep is a breed that originated in the Charolles region of east-central France. These sheep are medium to large in size, with males typically larger than females at around 300 pounds.
Notably, ewes might not be substantially smaller. Their heads are largely free of wool and have a distinctive pinkish-gray color.
The Charollais is mainly used as a terminal sire breed, known for its excellent fleshing qualities and growth. They are also characterized by their long bodies and high meat yields. This distinguished breed is another adaptable one and can thrive in a variety of environments.
Named after the Cotswold Hills in England where they originated, these sheep are sadly on the decline, but are known for their long, lustrous wool and high-quality meat.
The males, or rams, can weigh up to 285 pounds, with ewes significantly less at around 200 pounds.
They’re well adapted to pasture-based systems and their wool is highly sought after for its unique texture and quality. Though originating in the UK, they are fairly well-known and established in the US.
Next, let’s talk about one of the most iconic sheep breeds, and certainly the most well-known in North America: the Bighorn Sheep.
Native to the North American continent, these sheep are obviously named so for the massive, imposing horns that rams have. They use these impressive weapons for self-defense, but more often for settling clashes with other rams for breeding rights and alpha status.
Their legendary clashes can sound like gunfire echoing around the mountains where they live! The ewes also have horns, but they are shorter with less curvature. The weight of the males can range from 128 to 315 pounds, while females are a bit lighter, ranging from 75 to 200 pounds.
Bighorns are well suited to the rocky terrain and steep slopes they typically inhibit, and are known for their amazing climbing abilities and their unique ability to retain water from food, reducing their need for direct access to water sources.
Next, we have the Shropshire sheep. This beautiful and distinctive heritage breed was developed in the counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire in England.
Known for their medium build, level back, and springy fleece, Shropshire rams can weigh up to 225 pounds these days (a little more historically), while ewes usually weigh around 175 pounds.
They’re easily recognized for their black faces and legs, and dense medium-wool fleece. Shropshires are a versatile breed kept mostly for meat today, though they’re showing increased popularity on show circuits- owing to their stunning good looks!
One of the most distinctive domestic breeds around, the Dorper sheep originates in South Africa, and is recognized for its jet-black head and robust body. Rams can weigh up to a comparatively modest 230 pounds, while the females usually weigh a svelte 150 pounds.
Distinguished by their extreme adaptability to arid regions, Dorpers can thrive in dry places and are resistant to most common sheep diseases. If you want a low-maintenance breed, they are among the very best.
Another UK breed originating from Hampshire, England, this breed is known for its stout size and impressive muscle conformation. They are muscular animals to be sure!
Males typically weigh more than females, with some reaching up to 300 pounds and the ladies weighing slightly less, usually topping at 240 pounds. Their medium-wool, horizontal ears, and dark faces stand out in a crowd, and they are among the most popular breeds in the UK and Australia.
They’re known for their fine-grained, rich, and high-quality meat, which makes them a popular choice among farmers- and chefs!
The Icelandic Sheep is a remarkable breed that traces its origin back to the earliest settlers of Iceland. These sheep are smaller than other monster breeds we are looking at today, but still quite sizeable: adults usually weigh between 180 and 220 pounds.
Icelandics possess a dual coat consisting of a coarse outer layer and a soft inner layer, and the fiber is renowned for incredible strength and durability. The sheep themselves are also quite durable, thriving in harsh climates where other breeds might struggle to cling to life.
The Barbados Blackbelly sheep is an interesting breed. Originating from the Caribbean island of Barbados, this breed is now commonly encountered in the American Deep South and Southwest, and as the name suggests, is known for its highly distinctive black belly and face.
Males can weigh between 90 to 150 pounds, sometimes reaching 175 pounds or a bit more, while the females weigh slightly less at between 70 and 120 pounds.
These sheep possess a remarkable resistance to parasites and are highly adaptable, making them ideal for a wide variety of environments and giving them a reputation as remarkably healthy, hardy sheep. They’re also known for their extreme fertility rates, often producing twins or even triplets!
A Tunisian breed, this breed is known for its red or black skin, fat tail, long legs, and ability to drink brackish water and survive, owing to the incredibly arid climates from which it comes.
One of the smaller large breeds, Tunis Barbary rams can weigh up to 200 pounds, while females weigh around just 150 pounds. They’re very well-suited for hot climates as you might imagine, and are highly resistant to diseases.
These sheep are dual-purpose, bred for both meat and milk, but their wool is very coarse. An interesting fact about this breed is that they’re one of the oldest indigenous breeds known in North Africa, with some records dating them back over 3,000 years!
Next up is the Cheviot sheep. Originating from the Cheviot Hills on the border of England and Scotland (originating from a shipwreck, supposedly!) this dual-use breed is one of the smaller on our list and known for hardiness. Rams can weigh up to 200 pounds, while the ewes are a fairly petite 160 pounds on average.
Cheviots are distinguished by their bald faces, helically-crimped wool, black muzzles, and black feet. They also have perky, erect ears! They are particularly well-suited to hilly, exposed terrain and harsh weather conditions, making them a popular choice in many parts of the world.
Welsh Mountain Sheep
The Welsh Mountain sheep originates from the mountainous regions of Wales, and though this breed is small it is very hardy, and capable of living amicably on rocky, steep slopes and relatively poor pasturage. Males typically only weigh between 100 and 150 pounds, while females weigh slightly less.
Their wool is highly variable in quality depending on the sub-breed, but they uniformly have tasty meat.
And what sets them apart from other domestic breeds, aside from their ability to survive in harsh, hilly conditions, is their excellent mothering skills and low lamb mortality: Welsh Mountain mothers produce ample and nutritious milk to further help their lambs make it to adulthood, and they are highly attentive and protective as a rule.
Delving next to the Dorset Horn sheep, this ancient breed hails from the sheltered valleys and lush pastures of Dorset County, England. Known for their distinctive horns, these sheep are quite versatile and commonly raised for meat and wool alike. The males can weigh up to 275 pounds, while females are slightly lighter.
They have white wool of hand-spinning quality, yielding a fleece of between 5 and 9 pounds annually. Interestingly, they’re one of the few breeds that can breed all year round, and do so quite prolifically, providing flexibility for lambing times and great expansion rates for your flock. Though once quite popular in the US, they have since declined here.
Despite the exotic-sounding name, this breed was developed right here at home in Maine, and is named after Mt. Katahdin. Katahdins are a hair breed, meaning they grow hair instead of the expected, curly wool.
What’s more, they drop their winter coats when the weather warms up, meaning you don’t have to shear them at all to keep them comfortable!
Combined with a remarkable resistance to parasites- a trait inherited from their ancestor genetic sires- this is a popular low-maintenance breed.
Males can weigh up to 250 pounds, and females usually weigh around 120-160 pounds. Interestingly, their coat color can vary widely, from white to brown and even black.
The Lincoln Sheep is a longwool breed that hails from Lincolnshire in East Anglia, England. This breed is known as one of the largest domestic breeds in the world: rams can weigh an impressive 350 pounds plus, while the females, or ewes, are slightly lighter at just over 240 pounds.
They’re distinctive for their long, shiny, curly, thick fleece, among the longest and most lustrous in the world. They almost look like they have dreadlocks if you want to know the truth. Though imposingly large, Lincoln Sheep are docile, and easy to handle and shear.
Next up is the Rambouillet sheep, yet another on our list that originated in France. These sheep are a true dual-use breed, known for their fine wool and savory, tender meat.
The males weigh in at a respectable 300 pounds on average, while the females are usually closer to 250 pounds, meaning there is not as much disparity in size as with other breeds.
Rambouillets are very popular in the US, and have been extensively used as breeding stock and also for the development of entire breeds, namely the Barbados Blackbelly.
Well adapted to wet, marshy conditions and resistant to foot rot and other fungal infections, the open-faced and regal Romney sheep is named after the Romney Marsh region in England where they hail from.
Another domestic breed well regarded for their long, and satiny wool, rams, can weigh anywhere from 225 to 275 pounds, while the ewes come in at slightly less at around 150 to 200 pounds.
One interesting fact about these sheep is that they tend to thrive in very large, dense flocks, and they reproduce reliably.
Another heritage breed hailing from jolly old England, this breed is recognized for its broad stance and large size, black face, and excellent meat. Suffolk rams, can weigh up to 350 pounds; females, around 250 pounds.
Suffolks are one of the most popular and numerous sheep, exported and known around the globe for their excellent meat quality, high growth rate, and overall adaptability, making them a popular choice among farmers worldwide.
The Texel breed originates from the Netherlands, not Texas as the name might lead you to believe! Specifically, they come from the island of Texel.
Texels are known for their muscular build and high-quality meat, along with strong, dense wool good for textiles used in high-traffic or wear situations. A distinctive characteristic is their woolless white face and legs.
The males tip the scales can weigh up to 220 pounds, while females are much lighter with an average of around 150 pounds.
Equally at home in coastal climes or dry, windswept fields, these sheep are hardy and can thrive almost anywhere that it isn’t too hot.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.