Panama Sheep Breed Information, History & Facts

Panama Sheep Featured Image
Panama sheep thrive in harsh, mountainous terrain, and may be ideal if you are looking for a large, white sheep that is good for both wool and mutton. Despite the name, the Panama breed of sheep is one of only two domestic sheep breeds that were developed from private breeders in the United States.

In this article, we will cover the history of the Panama sheep, their breed characteristics, and examine the quality of their wool in detail. We will also list the positive attributes and benefits of owning Panama sheep.

Where do Panama Sheep Come From?

The Panama sheep traces its origins to the state of Idaho, where Scottish sheep breeder James Laidlaw crossbred Lincoln ewes with Rambouillet rams over the course of five years to develop the breed. He attempted to introduce Corriedale rams as part of his breeding program but they did not allow for the desired size to be obtained, and thus were culled.

James was originally seeking to produce a large wool sheep that was dual-purpose and better suited for the area than Merinos, which had been popular for several decades.

The resulting sheep from James’ breeding program were shown in 1915 at the Panama Exposition in San Francisco, where they proved quite popular. They were named “Panama Sheep” after they were shown at this exposition.

See Also:  Rambouillet Sheep Breed Information, History & Facts

In 1951, an official breed registry was created, but it has been inactive for many years. Thus, it is difficult to say how many Panama Sheep today are a result from crossbreeding and not from the original stock.

The only known pure Panama’s that still exist from the original lineage can be found at the University of Idaho who act as caretakers of the breed.

What are the Characteristics of the Panama Sheep?

While Panama sheep were bred for a large body size, they are still dwarfed by Columbia sheep, though the two breeds share a similar appearance.

Body WeightAppearance
Panama Ram250 to 280 poundsSolidly muscled form of medium to large size
Panama Ewe180 to 210 poundsHeavy milking

Both rams and ewes must have good conformation, a smooth open face, and be white in color. The Panama breed is polled (without horns).

What Kind of Fleece Does the Panama Sheep Produce?

The Panama sheep produces medium-grade, heavy wool fleece.

Yield45 to 55 percent
Fleece weight13lbs to 15lbs
Staple length3″ to 5″
Wool grade50 to 58
Thickness25 to 30 microns

Why Should You Raise Panama Sheep?

There are many reasons why you should consider raising Panama Sheep on your sheep farm:

  • They were bred for hardiness and can survive in harsh mountainous conditions
  • They are highly adaptive to different feed conditions
  • Mature ewes can be easily crossed with Suffolk, Southdown, and Hampshire breeds
  • They are dual-purpose, allowing for mutton and wool production
  • A dedicated number of breeders maintain uniformity and standard of excellence
  • Panama sheep are well-known within the sheep industry


A longtime resident of Southern California, Christina recently moved across the globe to Austria, where she bought land specifically to build a small house with room for a backyard chicken coop. Christina spent her childhood summers on a farm, raising and caring for a flock of hens owned by her grandparents, which prompted a lifelong love of chickens, and other farm animals. Christina is passionate about writing, having written hundreds of articles for well-known websites, and uses her English degree in service of her love for animal welfare, most recently taking on a writing position at Sheep Care Taker in 2022.

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