Jacob sheep

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Jacob sheep

The Jacob is a British breed of domestic sheep. It combines two characteristics unusual in sheep: it is piebald—dark-coloured with areas of white wool—and it is often polycerate or multi-horned. It most commonly has four horns. The origin of the breed is not known; broken-coloured polycerate sheep were present in England by the middle of the seventeenth century, and were widespread a century later. A breed society was formed in 1969, and a flock book was published from 1972.

  • Breed Name: Jacob
  • Other Name: Also known by some other names such as Many-horned sheep, Piebald sheep and Spanish sheep.
  • Breed Purpose: Meat, wool, hides, pets, ornamental
  • Breed Size: Medium
  • Weight: Rams weight between 54 and 82 kg, and mature ewes body weight vary from 36 to 54 kg
  • Horns: Yes
  • Climate Tolerance: Different climates
  • Color: Black and white
  • Rarity: Common
  • Country/Place of Origin: Middle East


Jacob Sheep have graced the large estates and country homes of England for many centuries. Their impressive horns, black and white faces and spotted bodies have no doubt contributed to their popularity and survival.

Their actual origins are not known. However, documentation throughout history indicates that the spotted or pied sheep may have originated in what is now Syria some three thousand years ago. Pictorial evidence traces movement of these sheep through North Africa, Sicily, Spain and on to England.

There are many romantic stories about the Jacob Sheep being direct descendants of the flock of sheep acquired by Jacob during the time he worked for his father-in-law as mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 30), or that they were washed ashore from shipwrecks during the attempted invasion of the Spanish Armada during the reign of Elizabeth.

Size and color

Jacobs are small, horned, black and white sheep. Ewes weigh 80–120 pounds, and rams 120–180 pounds. The sheep are white with colored spots or patches. The colored portions of the fleece are usually black, but they can also be brownish or a lighter color called lilac. The Jacob is a multi-horned or “polycerate” breed. Most animals have two or four horns, though six horns also occur. Both sexes are horned, and the rams can have horns of impressive size and shape.


The Jacob sheep are a medium-sized, piebald and multi-horned sheep that resembles a goat in it’s conformation. They may have from 2 to 6 horns, but most commonly have four. However, the Jacob sheep is not the only breed that can produce polycerate or piebald offspring. Other piebald sheep breeds include the Finnsheep and the West African Dwarf, and other polycerate sheep breeds include the Manx Loaghtan, Navajo-Churro, Hebridean and Icelandic sheep.


The origins of the Jacob are not known. It has been bred in the British Isles for several hundred years. Sheep of this kind, little different from the modern breed, were shown in paintings from about 1760 at Tabley House in Cheshire, and – by George Stubbs – at Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire.

In the de Tabley family, the tradition was that the piebald sheep had come ashore in Ireland from a wrecked ship of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and been brought to England by Sir John Byrne on his marriage.

Among the many accounts of ancient breeds of piebald sheep is the story of Jacob from the first book of the Hebrew Bible, called by Christians the Old Testament. According to the Book of Genesis , Jacob took every speckled and spotted sheep from his father-in-law’s (Laban’s) flock and bred them. Due to the resemblance to the animal described in Genesis, the Jacob sheep was named for the Biblical figure of Jacob sometime in the 20th century.

Wool and skins

Jacobs are shorn once a year, most often in the spring. The average weight of the fleece is 2–2.5 kg (4–6 lb). The wool is medium to coarse: staple length is about 8–15 cm (3–6 in) and fibre diameter about 32–34 microns (Bradford count 48s–56s).

In general, the fleece is light, soft, springy and open, with little lanolin there may be some kemp.[citation needed] In some sheep (particularly British Jacobs, which have denser fleeces), the black wool grows longer or shorter than the white wool. This is called “quilted fleece”, and is an undesirable trait.

Jacob sheep for sale

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