The following write-up explains about different sheep breeds available in India.
The country has about 40 breeds of sheep out of which 24 are distinct. They vary from the non-woolly breeds of sheep in the Southern Peninsular region mainly kept for mutton and manure to the reasonably fair apparel wool breeds of the Northern temperate region.
If we follow the breed classification in strict sense, there are no specific breeds, as majority of them lack characteristics of a fixed nature. Neither are there breeding societies nor agencies to register animals of particular breeds, maintain flock books and ensure purity of the breeds. Animals with distinct characters localized to a place and different from those of other places are termed as breeds and give some local name. There have been little efforts to conserve and improve the native breeds except for some Govt farms. Some important breeds of sheep are maintained for pure-breeding and producing stud rams for distribution to the farmers. Most of the breeds of sheep in India have evolved through natural adaptation to agro-ecological conditions, followed by some limited artificial selection for particular requirements. Most of the breeds have generally been named after their place of origin and on the basis of prominent characters. Among the most widely distributed native sheep breeds, Marwari and Deccani are most prevalent.
Based on utility, Indian breeds of sheep can be classified into the following:-
a) Indian Sheep Breeds – Apparel Wool Breeds : Hissasrdale, Nilgiri, Kashmir Merino, Avivastra, Bharat Merino. These are crossbreds of native sheep with exotic fine wool/dual-purpose/mutton breeds.
d)Indian Sheep Breeds – Hairy Meat Breeds : Nellore, Hassan, Mecheri, Kilakarsal, Vembur, Ramnad White, Madras Red, Tiruchi Black, Kenguri. These sheep are maintained primarily for meat almost in the whole of Southern Peninsular region. The wool produced is very coarse, hairy and coloured; below 36s quality; and suitable only for extremely rough carpets, barrack blankets and kamblies.
Based on various agro-climatic conditions and type of sheep found in them, the following four different regions regrouped from 15 agro-climatic zones are distinguishable over the country.
a) Indian Sheep Breeds –North-Western, Central Arid & Semi-Arid region
The region comprises the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat and the plains of UP and MP. This region is important in the country for carpet wool production.
Although the breed is largely found in Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Churu districts of Rajasthan, animals true to breed type are found only in the eastern and southern parts of Bikaner district.
Medium-to large in size; White face with brown patches around the eyes are characteristic; Skin colour is pink; Ears are small to medium and tubular; Both sexes are polled; Tail is medium in length and thin.
Fleece is of medium carpet quality, extremely white and lustrous and not very dense; Bikaneri Chokla strains have extremely white and lustrous fleeces and are suitable for good quality carpets.
(5)Indian Sheep Breeds – Jaisalmeri
Jaisalmer, Barmer and Jodhpur districts of Rajasthan.
Tall, well-built, largest breed in Rajasthan; Black or dark brown face with the colour extending upto the neck; Typical Roman nose, long drooping ears generally with a cartilaginous appendage; Both sexes are polled; Tail is medium to long.
Fleece colour is white, of medium carpet quality and not very dense.
(6)Indian Sheep Breeds – Pugal
Home tract is Pugal area of Bikaner district; also distributed over Bikaner & Jaisalmer districts.
Fairly well-built; Black face with small light brown strips on either side above the eyes; lower jaws are typically light brown in colour; black colour may extend to neck; Ears are short and tubular; Bothe sexes are polled; Tail is short to medium and thin.
Fleece is of medium carpet quality but not very dense.
(7) Indian Sheep Breeds – Malpura
Jaipur, Tonk, Sawaimadhopur and adjacent areas of Ajmer, Bhilwara and Bundi districts of Rajasthan.
Fairly well-built with long legs; Light brown face; Ears are short and tubular, with a small cartilaginous appendage on the upper side; Both sexes are polled; Tail is medium to long and thin.
Fleece is white, extremely coarse and hairy. Belly and legs are devoid of wool.
(8)Indian Sheep Breeds – Sonadi
Mainly found in Udaipur and Dungarpur districts of Rajasthan, it also extends to northern Gujarat.
Fairly well-built but somewhat smaller to Malpura; Long legs; Light brown face with colour extending to the middle of the neck; ears are large, flat and drooping and generally have a cartilaginous appendage; Tail is long and thin; Both sexes are polled; Udder is fairly well-developed.
Fleece is white, extremely coarse and hairy. Belly and legs are devoid of wool.
Muzaffaranagar, Bulandshahr, Saharanpur, meerut, Bijnor & Dehradun districts of UP and parts of Delhi & Haryana.
Medium to large in size; The breed is one of the largest and very well adapted to irrigated areas. Face lines are slightly convex; Face and body are white with occasional patches of brown or black; ears and face are occasionally black; Both sexes are polled; males sometimes contain rudimentary horns; Ears are long and drooping; Tail is extremely long and reaches fetlock.
Fleece is white, coarse and open. Belly and legs are devoid of wool.
(11)Indian Sheep Breeds – Jalauni
Jalaun, Jhansi and Lalitpur districts of UP.
Medium-sized; Straight nose line; Both sexes are polled; Ears are large, flat and drooping; Tail is thin and medium in length; Belly and legs are devoid of wool.
Fleece is coarse, short-stapled and open, generally white.
(12)Indian Sheep Breeds – Hissardale
The breed was synthesized in the earlier part of the century at The Government Livestock Farm, Hissar (Haryana) through crossing Australian Merino rams with Bikaneri (Magra) ewes by stabilizing the exotic inheritance to about 75%.
Small, with short legs, giving them a low-set appearance; Leaf-like medium-sized ears. Most animals are polled; colour is predominantly white, although some brown or black patches can also be observed.
(13)Indian Sheep Breeds – Avivastra
This fine-wool breed was evolved at the CSWRI, Avikanagar through interbreeding and selection of Rambouillet x Chokla (halfbred and 5/8th) base. Wool obtained is 2.3 kg, 21-22 µ dia and 4.5 cm staple length.
(14)Indian Sheep Breeds –Bharat Merino
This fine-wool breed was evolved by crosses of indigenous breeds with Rambouillet and Merino. Wool obtained is 4.2 kg, 21µ dia and 7.3 cm staple length.
(15)Indian Sheep Breeds – Avikalin
This superior carpet wool breed was evolved at the CSWRI, Avikanagar through interbreeding and selection of Rambouillet x Malpura halfbreds.
b)Indian Sheep Breeds – Southern region
This region (semi-arid in central peninsular and hot humid along the coast) comprises of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Majority of wool produced is below 36s (the exception being Nilgiri sheep which produce wool above 48s). About 50% of the population of sheep in this region does not produce any wool and the rest produce very coarse, hairy and coloured fleeces.
(1)Indian Sheep Breeds – Deccani
The breed is spread over the greater part of the Central Peninsular region, comprising the semi-arid areas of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It covers the major part of Maharashtra, esp. the Pune Division; parts of Kurnool, Medak, Hyderabad, Mehboobnagar, Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Anantpur & Warangal districts in AP; Bidar, Bijapur, Gulbarga & Raichur districts in Karnataka.
Medium-sized, predominantly black with white markings; White and brown/fawn animals are also seen. Rams are horned but ewes are polled; Ears are medium, long, flat and drooping; Tail is short and thin.
Fleece is extremely coarse, hairy and open. Belly and legs are devoid of wool.
(2)Indian Sheep Breeds – Bellary
Mostly found in Bellary district. This breed is not very different from the Deccani. Animals found to the north of the Tungabhadra river are called “Deccani” and those to the south of it “Bellary”.
Medium-sized; Body colour ranging from white to black with various combinations; One-third of the males are horned, females are generally polled; Ears are medium, long, flat and drooping.
Fleece is extremely coarse, hairy and open. Belly and legs are devoid of wool.
(3)Indian Sheep Breeds – Nellore
Nellore district and neighbouring areas of Prakasam and Ongole districts of AP.
Based on the coat colour, three varieties of the breed are : “Palla” – completely white or white with light brown spots on head, neck, back and legs; “Jodipi/Jodimpu” – white with black spots, particularly around the lips, eyes and lower jaw, but also on belly and legs; and “Dora” – completely brown.
Animals are relatively tall with little hair except at brisket, withers and breech; Rams are horned but ewes are almost always polled; Earls are long and drooping; Tail is short and thin; 86% of the animals carry wattles.
(4)Indian Sheep Breeds – Mandya (Bannur, Bandur)
Mandya district and bordering Mysore district of Karnataka.
Relatively small in size; White in colour, but in some cases, the face is light brown, which may extend upto the neck; Possess a compact body with a typical reversed U-shaped wedge from the rear. Ears are long, leaf-like and drooping; Tail is short and thin; A large percentage of the animals carry wattles; Slightly Roman nose; Both sexes are polled; Coat is extremely coarse and hairy.
It is the best meat breed of the country. There is a high incidence of cryptorchidism.
(5)Indian Sheep Breeds – Hassan
Hassan district of Karnataka.
Small-sized; White body with light brown or black spots; Ears are medium long and drooping; 39% of males are horned; females are usually polled.
Fleece is white, extremely coarse and open. Belly and legs are generally devoid of wool.
Ramnathpuram, Madurai, Thanjavur & ramand districts of TN
(8)Indian Sheep Breeds – Vembur (Karnadhai)
Tirunelveli district of TN
Tall; Colour is white with irregular redand fawn patches all over the body; Ears are medium-sized and drooping; Tail is short and thin; Males are horned but ewes are polled; Body is covered with very short hair which is not shorn.
(9)Indian Sheep Breeds – Coimbatore (Kurumbai)
Coimbatore and Madurai districts of TN and bordering areas of Kerala and Karnataka.
Medium-sized; White colour with black or brown spots; Ears are medium in size and directed outward and backward; Tail is short and thin; 38% males are horned but females are polled.
Fleece is white, coarse, hairy and open.
(10)Indian Sheep Breeds – Nilgiri
Nilgiri hills of TN.
Evolved during the 19th Century, the breed has originated from a crossbred base and contains an unknown level of inheritance of Coimbatore, Tasmanian Merino, Cheviot and South Down.
Medium-sized; Body colour is generally white with exceptions having brown patches on face and body; Face line is convex, giving a typical Roman nose. Ears are broad, flat and drooping; Males have horn buds and scurs but the females are polled. Tail is medium and thin.
Fleece is fine and dense. The breed produces fine fleece but there is little organized shearing and marketing of wool. The breed is mostly maintained for manure by tea planters and other flock owners.
(11)Indian Sheep Breeds – Ramand White
Ramand district and adjoining areas of Tirunelveli district of TN.
Medium-sized. Predominantly white, though some animals have fawn or black markings over the body. Ears are medium-sized and directed outward and downward. Males have twisted horns but females are polled. Tail is short and thin.
(12)Indian Sheep Breeds – Madras Red
Chingalpet and Madras districts of TN.
Medium-sized. Body colour is predominantly brown and its intensity varies from light tan to dark brown. Some animals have white markings on the forehead, inside the thighs and on the lower abdomen. Ears are medium-long. Males have twisted horns but females are polled. Body is covered with very short hair which is not shorn.
(13)Indian Sheep Breeds – Tiruchi Black (Tiruchi Karungurmbai)
Parts of Tiruchi, South Arcot, North Arcot and Dharmapuri districts of TN.
Small-sized. Completely black body. Males are horned but ewes are polled. Ears are short and directed downward and forward. Tail is short and thin.
Fleece is extremely coarse, hairy and open.
(14)Indian Sheep Breeds – Kenguri (Tenguri)
Hilly tracts of Raichur district (esp. Lingsugur, Sethanur & Gangavati taluks) of Karnataka.
Medium-sized. Body colour is mostly dark brown, but colours ranging from white to black with spots of different shades are also not uncommon. Males are horned but the females are generally polled.
c) Indian Sheep Breeds – Eastern Region
This region, which is predominantly hot and humid, includes Bihar, WB, Orissa, Assam and othe eastern states. Sheep primarily produce wool of below 36s quality. Sheep of this region are primarily of meat type with the exception of Arunachal Pradesh which has a small number of better wool-type sheep. The wool produced by the sheep of this region is extremely coarse, coloured and of hairy quality.
(1) Indian Sheep Breeds –Chottanagpuri
Chottanagpur, Ranchi, Palamau, Hazaribagh, Singbhum, Dhanbad & Santhal Parganas of Bihar, and Bankura district of WB.
Small, light-weight animals. Light grey and brown in colour. Ears are small and parallel to the head. Tail is short and thin. Both sexes are polled.
Fleece is coarse, hairy and open and is generally not clipped.
(2)Indian Sheep Breeds – Shahabadi
Shahabad, Patna & Gaya districts of Bihar.
Medium-sized, leggy animals. Fleece colour is mostly grey, sometimes with black spots. Ears are medium sized and drooping. Tail is extremely long and thin. Both sexes are polled. Fleece is extremely coarse, hairy and open. Belly and legs are devoid of wool.
(3) Indian Sheep Breeds –Balangir
North-western districts of Orissa i.e. Balangir, Sambalpur and Sundargarh.
Medium-sized. White or light brown or of mixed colours; few animals are black. Ears are small and stumpy. Males are horned and females polled. Tail is medium long and thin. Fleece is extremely coarse, hairy and open. Belly and legs are devoid of wool.
(4)Indian Sheep Breeds – Ganjam
Koraput, Phulbani and part of Puri district of Orissa.
Medium-sized. Coat colour ranging from brown to dark tan; some have white spots on the face and body. Ears are medium-sized and drooping. Nose line is slightly convex. Tail is medium long and thin. Males are horned but females polled. Fleece is short and hairy and is not shorn.
(5)Indian Sheep Breeds – Tibetan
Northern Sikkim and Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. Medium-sized. Mostly white with black or brown face, and brown and white spots on the body. Both sexes are horned. Roman nose. Ears are small, broad and drooping.
Fleece is relatively fine and dense. Belly, legs and face are devoid of wool. Produce excellent, lustrous, carpet-quality wool.
(6)Indian Sheep Breeds – Bonpala
Tall, leggy and well-built. Fleece colour ranges from complete white to complete black with a number of intermediary tones. Ears are small and tubular. Both sexes are horned. Tail is short and thin. Fleece is coarse, hairy and open. Belly and legs are devoid of wool.
d) Indian Sheep Breeds – Northern Temperate Region
This region comprises J&K, HP and hilly parts of UP. About 25% of the wool produced in this region is of 36-48s quality, suitable for carpets and the rest is above 48s and is suitable for apparel and superior quality carpets. Around 1/3rd of the sheep in J&K and about 15-20% in other parts of this region are crosses of native breeds with exotic fine wool breeds.
(1)Indian Sheep Breeds – Gaddi (Bhadarwah):
Kishtwar & Bhadarwah tehsils of Jammu; Hamirpur, Ramnagar, Udhampur and Kulu & Kangra valleys of HP; Dehradun, Nainital, Tehri Garhwal and Chamoli districts of UP.
Medium-sized. Usually white, although tan, brown and black and mixtures of these are also seen. All males and 10-15% females are horned. Tail is short and thin.
Fleece is relatively fine and dense.
(2)Indian Sheep Breeds – Rampur Bushair
Shimla, Kinnaur, Nahan, Bilaspur, Sohan, Lahul & Spiti districts of HP; dehradun, Rishikesh, Chakrota ad Nainital districts of UP.
Medium-sized. Fleece colour is predominantly white, but brown, black and tan colour are also seen in varying proportions. Ears are long and drooping. Roman nose. Males are horned but most of the females are polled.
Fleece is of medium quality and dense. Legs, belly and face are devoid of wool.
(3)Indian Sheep Breeds – Bhakarwal
The breed has derived its name from a nomadic tribe which rears these sheep. Due to its entirely migratory nature, there is no distinct home tract of this breed.
Medium-sized. Roman nose. Generally white, although coloured fleeces are occasionally observed; all animals are spotted, fawn or grey. Rams are horned and ewes polled. Ears are long and drooping. Tail is short and thin. Fleece is coarse and open.
(4)Indian Sheep Breeds – Poonchi
Poonch and part of Rajouri district of Jammu.
Animals are similar in appearance to Gaddi except being lighter in weight. Predominantly white in colour but spotted sheep varying from brown to light black are also seen. Ears are medium long. Tail is short and thin. Legs are short giving a low-set conformation.
Wool is of medium to fine quality, mostly white in colour.
(5)Indian Sheep Breeds – Karnah
Distributed in Karnah, a mountainous tehsil in N. Kashmir.
Large animals. Rams have large, curved horns and a prominent nose line.
Wool is generally white in colour.
(6)Indian Sheep Breeds – Gurez
Gurez area of N. Kashmir.
Largest sheep breed of J&K. Generally white in colour, although some animals are brown or black or have brown or black spots. A small proportion of animals have small, pointed horns. Tail is short and thin. Ears are long, thin and pointed.
Fleece is generally coarse and hairy.
(7) Indian Sheep Breeds –Kashmir Merino
This breed has originated from crosses of different Merino types (at first Delaine Merinos, and subsequently Rambouillet and Soviet Merinos) with predominantly migratory native sheep breeds, viz. Gaddi, Bhakarwal and Poonchi. The level of inheritance in the crossbred animals included in Kashmir Merino predominantly varied from 50-75% but may vary from very low to almost 100% Merino. As the animals are highly diversified because of a number of native breeds involved, no definite descriptions of the breed can be given.
(8)Indian Sheep Breeds – Changthangi
Changthang region of Ladakh in J&K.
Strongly built, large framed. Good fleece cover of an extraordinarily long staple.
Wool is of a good carpet/medium apparel quality. Animals are usually shorn twice a year, generally in May/June and Sep/Oct.