The largest sheep breed in the world is the Suffolk sheep. A Suffolk ram holds the Guinness World Record for largest sheep at 545 pounds and 43 inches tall. Other large sheep breeds include Lincoln sheep and Argali sheep.
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What is the Largest Sheep Breed?
- Suffolk sheep are the world’s largest sheep breed, with ram weights reaching or exceeding 350 pounds. A Suffolk sheep holds the world record for largest sheep ever, at 43 inches tall and 545 pounds.
- Lincoln sheep are another large breed, with ram weights ranging from 250-350 pounds.
- Argali sheep are the largest wild sheep breed. They roam the highlands of the Himalayans and Tibet. Rams of this breed weigh up to 400 pounds.
The World Record for the Largest Sheep Ever
The largest sheep ever was a Suffolk ram weighing 545 pounds and standing 43 inches high.
The ram, named “Stratford,” was owned by Dr Joe Schallberger of Boring, Oregon, United States. His claim was verified by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1991.
According to Dr. Schallberger, the ram was fed a normal diet of grass and alfafa, plus two pounds a day of sheep feed.
Suffolk rams can reach 350 pounds or more, while ewes can reach 250 pounds. A fully grown American Suffolk ram can be as heavy as a Shetland Pony. Suffolk sheep in the USA, Scotland, France, Spain, and South Africa tend to be bigger than Suffolk sheep found in the United Kingdom.
The American Sheep Industry ran a study in 2013 and found that Suffolk rams are better to use as crossbred sires than rams of other breeds. The resulting crossbred lambs tend to be faster-growing than with sires of other breeds, even with the same amount of feed.
Suffolk sheep tend to be used for meat production. Wool weights from mature ewes can be anywhere from 5-8 pounds, with a yield of 50-62%.
Lincoln sheep can grow to massive weights, and are known as the largest sheep breed in Britain. Mature Lincoln rams weigh anywhere from 250 to 350 pounds, while ewes weigh 200-250 pounds.
The body of the Lincoln is sturdy and wide, while its legs are rather skinny, giving it an unbalanced look. Its carcass is large, well-muscled, and lean. Lincoln sheep are voracious eaters.
Argali, which translates to “wild sheep” in Mongolian, is the largest wild sheep breed in the world. They can weigh up to 400 pounds, making them about twice the size of the North American bighorn sheep.
Argali sheep are known for their big, spiraling horns (similar to Dorset horn) and their light brown coat. The corkscrew horns of an Argali ram can grow up to six feet.
Argali rams are hunted for their impressive and highly-priced horns.
Other Large Sheep Breeds
- Cotswold: The Cotswold sheep is a large polled breed often used for crossbreeding to increase staple length. Rams weigh around 300 pounds and ewes weigh around 200 pounds.
- Border Leicester: The Border Leicester sheep produces long, lustrous wool. Mature rams weigh up to 325 pounds, while ewes weigh up to 275 pounds.
- Romney: The Romney sheep is a dual-purpose breed, and its fine wool is considered high-quality. Its fine wool yields high amounts and can be spun easily. Rams weigh up to 275 pounds, and ewes weigh up to 200 pounds.
Why Large Sheep Are Desirable
Large sheep are advantageous for the sheep industry because they tend to produce more meat and more wool. Depending on the breed, large sheep can also be more profitable to raise, especially if the same amount of feed results in a higher weight.
Among meat sheep especially, crossbreeding programs are used to breed larger, lower-maintenance sheep, with the ultimate goal of making them more profitable for farmers. Using Suffolk rams as sires has been shown in studies as one of the best ways to create faster-growing lambs.