Sheep Breeders' Society of South Africa


THE DORPER is an indigenous South African breed. 50 years ago the Department of Agriculture and some farmers decided to develop a sheep breed which can produce a maximum number of lambs, with good mutton qualities and which could be marketed off arid and extensive grazing conditions.

They managed to produce the Dorper which fulfilled all their expectations and succeeded in developing a wonderful breed which is not only ideally suited to the purpose for which is was bred, but is adaptable to conditions throughout the world. It will make a huge contribution to mutton production worldwide.

The Dorper breed was developed through the crossing of the Blackhead Persian ewe with the Dorset Horn and this resulted in the birth of some white Dorper lambs. The difference in colour is therefore merely a matter of preference for each breeder. Black-headed breeders constitute about 85% of the members of the Dorper Sheep Breeders' Society of South Africa.

The Dorper breed is now numerically the second largest breed in South Africa and has spread to many countries throughout the world

Outstanding Characteristics

Mutton Production, Adaptability, Hardiness, Veld Utilisation and Good Mothering Qualities

    The Dorper is primarily a mutton sheep and meets these requirements exceptionally well.

The following table indicates the reproduction of Dorper ewes on veld grazing which were mated during March and April.

Reproduction per 100 Dorper ewes mated


Number of ewes

Lambs born

Lambs weaned

Ewes mated



Ewes lambed



Ewes with single lambs




Ewes with twin lambs




Ewes with triplet lambs




Total number of lambs




Make Money with Mutton Sheep - Dr Q P Campbell

According to Dr Q P Campbell in "Make Money with Mutton Sheep", the average daily gain of Dorpers under extensive conditions was from 81 g to 91 g per day. During a phase D2 growth test at Tweedie, the average daily gain was 160 g per day in the test while the average daily gain per day of age was 203 g per day.

The best quality Dorper carcasses are marketed under the Brandname DIAMOND DORPER.

  1. Adaptability
    The Dorper is well adapted to a variety of climatic and grazing conditions. Originally this breed was developed for the more arid areas of the Republic but today they are widely spread throughout all the provinces. The Dorper does well in various veld and feeding conditions and reacts very favourably under intensive feeding conditions. It is indeed a popular breed.
  2. Hardiness
    The Dorper is hardy and can thrive under veld conditions where other breeds can barely exist and the ewe can raise a lamb of reasonable quality under fairly severe conditions. As this is one of the aims in the development of the breed, when added to inherent hardiness and non- selective razing habits, it places the Dorper, as mutton breed, virtually in a class of its own.
  3. Veld utilisation
    As a strong and non-selective grazer the Dorper can advantageously be incorporated into a well planned veld management system. On most farms there are grazing and other food sources which are not utilized or are underutilised. Here the Dorper can be used to the producer's advantage, either alone, or in conjunction with other small stock breeds, to convert this asset into profit.
  4. Good mothering qualities
    The Dorper ewe produces a large quantity of milk, is instinctively fond of its lamb and has the ability to care for and rear her offspring well, be it single or twin lambs.
  5. Easy care
    The Dorper is an easy care breed which requires a minimum of labour. Its skin covering which is a mixture of hair and wool, will drop off if not shorn to keep it tidy. The Dorper has a thick skin which is highly prized and protects the sheep under harsh climatic conditions.
  6. Temperament
    The Dorper has a very even temperament and is a pleasure to work with...... it will creep into your heart.

Before purchasing embryos or semen please ensure that the person you are dealing with is a registered and established breeder of the Dorper Breeders' Society of South Africa. Contact +27 49 842 2241 or fax +27 49 3589 for any further information.


The ultimate object in the breeding of Dorper sheep is the production of a high quality lamb carcass. The Dorper has proved that it can compete with the best lamb carcasses in South Africa of all other mutton breeds and cross-breeds. In fact the Dorper carcass can now be said to compare more than favourably with the best in the world, as virtually all exotic mutton breeds are represented in this country.  As early as September 1955, the Dorper won first prize in the block test against various other breeds and cross breeds at the Rand Fat Stock Show and this champion carcass was sold in those early days at R4,62
(1 US$ = R4,60) per kilogram. Since then the Dorper has done well on various shows and won many prizes and championships.

The South African Meat Board inaugurated a National Carcass Competition in 1986 which is open to all breeds. This competition is run on a national basis at various selected centres and virtually all the judging is done by the latest scientific means of measurement. Very little is left to judging by "eye".

The Dorper proved its competitive carcass quality in the 1986 National Carcass Competition by being placed FIRST, FOURTH, FIFTH & SIXTH in the group of 3 carcasses and SECOND and THIRD in the individual carcass class. In 1987 this achievement was surpassed by the Dorper gaining the FIRST and SECOND places in the group of 3 carcasses and FIRST and THIRD places in the individual class. As 109 breeders of all mutton breeds entered 424 top quality lamb carcasses for this competition, this was a fantastic achievement!

During the International Expo in 1990 in Bloemfontein 120 entrants entered 1200 animals of all breeds of which 600 were slaughtered. Dorper carcasses won 8 of the first 10 places as follows:

Single carcasses:

Champion carcass and 3rd, 4th and 5th places.

Group carcasses:

Champion group, Reserve Champion group and 3rd and 5th places.

It is not uncommon for 90% or more or a consignment of Dorper slaughter lambs to obtain super grades. The Dorper ewe has good mothering abilities and can rear a lamb with ease, while the lamb develops further through its inherent growth potential. The ideal carcass weight is 14-16 kg and the lamb should reach this weight within 3,5 to 4 months.

The best quality Dorper carcasses are exclusively marketed as DIAMOND DORPER.

The quality of the meat of two Dorper types (leggy and dumpy) was evaluated by the Agricultural Research Council, Irene. They found that the percentage of meat in the carcass varied between 73.9 and 74.6 between the two types. The mutton to bone ratio varied between 4.9:1 to 5.2:1. The percentage of muscle in the carcass was approximately 65% and the total carcass fat approximately 20%. The high quality cuts were between 43.2% and 45.9% of the total carcass. The Dorper therefore produces a high quality carcass with a very favourable mutton to bone ratio and a carcass with a high percentage of good quality meat.

The sensory attributes of the meat were tested by a professional tasting panel for intensity of aroma, tenderness and ease of bite. The scale varied from 1 = none, to 8 = extremely. The rating for intensity of aroma was 6.2, for tenderness 6.3 and for ease of bite 6.3. From these results it is clear that Dorper mutton is well above average as far as tastiness and juiciness are concerned.

The Dorper skin is the most sought after sheepskin in the world and is marketed under the name of Cape Glovers. The skin comprises a high percentage of the income (20%) of the total carcass value.

The Dorper is, thanks to the prepotency of its Blackhead Persian mother, one of the most fertile sheep breeds in the Republic of South Africa. An unrestricted breeding season and good mothering qualities are other important attributes of the Blackhead Persian which were transmitted to the Dorper.

In good veld conditions the Dorper can be mated at any time of the year. With management ingenuity the farmer can organise his breeding programme to drop a lamb crop every 8 months. An 8 month lambing interval has various advantages, of which greater selection possibilities and the sale of a larger number of lambs, which are not taken up in the flock, are the most important.


A mating period of 6 weeks is normally sufficient and because multiple births often occur, a lambing percentage of 150 can be attained if conditions and management are good. Under extensive conditions 100% lambs can be expected.

Mating practices usually differ from commercial to stud breeders. Commercial breeders generally make use of mass mating where a number of rams are mated to a fairly large group of ewes in order that free mating may take place. Three to four rams per 100 ewes are normally adequate under extensive conditions. With good management one ram can mate with 60 ewes.

The stud breeder on the other hand usually makes use of individual mating where a ram, with specific characteristics, is mated to a group of selected ewes. This method enables him to judge the progeny of the specific ram separately and to evaluate its breeding value.

Hand mating is a very popular mating practice especially where the breeder has a proven sire from which he requires a large number of lambs. Teasers are used to identify the ewes on heat.

Artificial insemination is another method used where a large number of lambs are required from a proven sire.


The purpose of a Standard of Excellence is to indicate the degree of excellence of the animal by means of a description and a score by points according to visual appearance and performance. These values must be recorded in such a way as to give a true reflection of the excellence or deficiencies of the sheep. For descriptive and comparative purposes sheep may be compared with each other according to a score card, and the following points are allotted, corresponding to the respective terms of the main sections of the standard of excellence.

Very good  5 points
Above average 4 points
Average 3 points
Poor or below average 2 points
Very poor with cull points 1 point

The following comprises the Standard of Excellence.

1.  Conformation: represented by the symbol B

2.  Size or growth rate: represented by the symbol G.
     A sheep with a good weight for its age is the ideal.  
     Discrimination against extremely small or extremely big animals
     must be exercised.

3.  Distribution of fat: represented by the symbol D.
     Too much localisation of fat on any part of the body is undesirable. An even distribution of a thin
     layer of fat over the carcass and between the muscle-fibres is the ideal. The sheep must be firm
     and muscular when handled.

4.  Colour pattern: represented by the symbol P
     Dorpers: A white sheep with black confined to the head and neck is the ideal. Black spots, to a
     limited extent on the body and legs are permissible, but an entirely white sheep or a sheep
     predominantly black is undesirable. Brown hair around the eyes, white teats, white under the tail
     and white hoofs are undesirable. White Dorpers: A white sheep, fully pigmented around the
     eyes, under the tail, on the udder and the teats is the ideal. A limited number of other coloured
     spots is permissible on the ears and underline.

5.  Cover or Fleece: represented by the symbol H.
     The ideal is a short, loose, light covering of hair and wool with wool
     predominating on fore quarter and with a natural clean kemp underline.
     Too much wool or hair is undesirable. Exclusively wool or hair is a fault.
     Manes are a disqualifier.

6.  Type: represented by the symbol T.
     Type is judged according to the degree to which the sheep conforms to the general
      requirements of the breed. Emphasis is placed on conformation. Size and fat distribution when
      determining type, while colour and covering are of secondary importance.
      (For pointing details, refer to Dorper Sheep Breeders' Society of South Africa

Average weights of Dorper ram lambs and rams as well as ewe lambs and ewes in good condition
note: some of the ewes might have been pregnant.




6 Teeth +

105.5 kg

95.0 kg

4 Teeth

102.2 kg

84.3 kg

2 Teeth

92.8 kg

70.9 kg

11 months

80.0 kg

65.2 kg

9 Months

69.5 kg

54.8 kg

6 months

54.6 kg

47.8 kg

Make money with Mutton Sheep - Dr QP Campbell (Price = R50 postage included in South Africa)

The Dorper Sheep Breeders' Society of South Africa was founded in 1950 and now has 600 members throughout South Africa and Namibia.

Three National Sales are held annually and a National Championship Show is held every second year.

Dorper courses are held throughout South Africa and a Judges' Panel is made up of people who have passed a Junior Course, two Senior Courses and a Judges' Examination. Inspectors who are also members of the Society, are appointed from this panel.

The Dorper has already been distributed worldwide and has proved itself a world beater. In South Africa, Dorper numbers are still increasing rapidly.

South Africa is proud to share the DORPER breed with the rest of the world.


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