The Awassi is a local sheep breed in South-West Asia originated in the Syro-Arabian desert. Other local names can also be Ivesi, Baladi, Deiri, Syrian, Ausi, Ducktales, Nuami or Gezirieh. It is a fat-tailed type and is multi coloured: white with brown head and legs (sometimes also black or brown). The ears are long and drooping.
- Other names: Egyptian Baladi, Deiri, Syrian, Ausi, Nuami, Gezirieh
- Country of origin: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt
- Distribution: South-West Asia, Syro-Arabian desert
- Use: Milk, meat, wool
- Wool color: White
- Face color: Brown
The unimproved Awassi is a robust and vigorous, medium-sized sheep of milk and mutton type. The improved dairy type is larger and more refined than the ordinary Awassi. The bodily proportions are affected by the size and weight of the fat tail, which produces the impression of a lack of balance between fore- and hindquarters. In ewes this impression is enhanced by the large udder.
The height at withers recorded in Awassi sheep ‘ of Iraq, Palestine and the Syrian Arab Republic ranges from 68 to 80 cm in adult rams and from 65 to 70 cm in ewes, and the length of body from 62 to 72 cm in rams and from 58 to 67 cm in ewes.
The weight of unimproved adult Awassi rams throughout the range of the breed varies between 60 and 90 kg, and of ewes between 30 and 50 kg. In several thousand Awassi ewes purchased for slaughter in Transjordan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq during the Second World War, the author established an average weight of 42 kg. In improved Awassi, weights of dairy ewes range from 60 to 70 kg while that of rams may exceed 100 kg.
The Awassi sheep are used for many different purposes such as meat, milk and wool. But they are raised primarily for milk production. They have unique physiological characteristics such as resistance to parasites and many diseases. They can walk long distances over pastures for grazing.
The Awassi sheep are actually adapted to many different environmental conditions and also perform well in it’s native habitat. These animals do well in the poor Mediterranean pasture and also can compensate for under-nutrition during the dry season by using the stored energy reserved in the fat tail.
The Awassi is the most prevalent sheep breed in the Arab Countries. The Awassi sheep breed is common in most of the Middle East Countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Egypt. It is an extremely hardy breed, well adapted over centuries of use to nomadic and more sedentary rural management.
The Awassi is the natural or basic breed of sheep for production in these areas and a logical choice as the native or basic breed for any genetic improvement because of its apparent adaptation.
For rams, Mason (1967) gives an average annual fleece weight of 2.0-2.5 kg and for ewes 1.75 kg. In improved Awassi ewes, the fleece weighs 2.6-3.0 kg and in rams 4.35 kg on average.
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