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2.3 BAHAMA NATIVE by A.S. Demirüren

According to the FAO Production Yearbook the sheep population of the Bahamas has gradually risen to 31,000 in 1977. However there are reasons to believe that in fact it may have been falling.

The hair sheep of the Bahamas is a thin-tailed medium-sized mutton breed with a well proportioned skeletal structure. The ewes are polled and the rams have horns. The body cover is a mixture of hair and kemp and the fibre colour is usually white with some brown and black spots. The thin tail is about 25 centimetres long and extends down to the hocks. The legs are white with brown and black spots over the hoofs. The size of the head of the ewes when measured from the top of the crown to the tip of the nose is 23 cm and in rams 30 cm. The face is white with black or brown spots. Ears are of medium size and about 11 cm long. Rams have Roman nose and powerful horns. The average body weight of the mature ewes is 37 kg and mature rams weigh about 65 kg. It was possible to take some skeletal measurements as follows:

Ewes70 cm-68 cm-34 cm-22 cm
Rams83 cm-75 cm-41 cm-31 cm

These figures represent (1) trunk length from front of the scapula to pin bone, (2) from the highest point of the wither vertically to the ground, (3) vertical distance from wither to the ventral surface of the sternum immediately behind the front legs, (4) chest width at scapula. Visual evidence of imported breed influence (e.g. Barbados Blackbelly, Wiltshire Horn, Cadzow Improver) is strong in some individuals.

During the visit to the sheep farms on Long Island, farmers said that ewes can breed and lamb twice a year. The experiments conducted at the BARTAD Station in North Andros Island and observations made on 298 lambings and 278 weanings indicate that ewes will give birth to 1.4 lambs per lambing and wean 1.2. The average birth weight of the lambs was 3.3 kg and they reached 25 kg in 90 days. Interval between lambings averaged 227 days (1.6 lamb crops per year) when the rams are continuously with the ewes. Using these figures it was estimated that the average ewe at the BARTAD Station bore 2.25 and weaned 1.9 lambs per year.

The conclusions from the results are as follows:

  1. Performance of Native ewes and rams is equal to or better than introduced Barbados Blackbelly, Florida Native and Suffolk sheep. Therefore, future breeding programmes should stress the use of Native stock, particularly by identifying and selecting the higher producing ewes and concentrating the most desirable seedstock in elite herds.

  2. Selection programmes should aim at improvement of ewe prolificacy and lamb rate of growth from birth to weaning, without sacrificing the ewe lambing interval. This can be accomplished by using fastgrowing twin-born ram lambs from ewes with lambing intervals of 250 days or less. Ewe phenotypic characteristics should not receive a great deal of emphasis.

A sheep husbandry station is now being set up on Long Island by the Government of the Bahamas, one function of which will be to establish a flock of hair sheep from the best genetic material available and improve the breed through selection based on economic traits.


Katsigianis, T.S., Wilson, L.L., Cathopoulis, T.E., Dorsett, A.A. and Fisher, D. 1977. The productivity of indigenous and exotic strains of sheep on North Andros Island, Bahamas. Bahamas Agricultural Research, Training and Development Project, Final Report No. 32.


These sheep apparently came from Africa first to Cuba but precisely when and from where is not known. However there is a tradition that the slaves from Cuba came chiefly from Angola. Although differing in colour, being chiefly tan, white or tan-and-white the sheep are clearly similar to the Barbados Blackbelly (see Plate 10).

According to the FAO Production Yearbook 1977 there are 346,000 sheep in Cuba. This is more than all the other Caribbean islands together. About 75 percent of these are of the hair breed called originally “Carnero de Pelo de Buey” (i.e. ox-haired sheep) and now shortened to “Pelibüey”. These sheep are also called “Criollo” but they differ from the Criollo of the mainland of Latin America which are wooled sheep descended from the Churro of Spain. About 75 percent of the hair sheep are on private farms, not state farms.

Pelibüey sheep are of all colours including tan (or red), white, tanand-white, black belly and black. The first three colours are the most frequent. The black may in fact be a very dark mahogany red. The Pelibüey sheep on State farms are either red or white. The red animals are preferred since they are believed to be stronger. Also the red colour is dominant to the white of the Pelibüey (but not to the white of European breeds).

In one State farm lamb mortality has recently been reduced from 20 percent to 13.4 percent by keeping the lambs in a “day-care centre” while the ewes are at pasture. The lambs are thus spared the long walk to pasture and back. They suckle early in the morning and when the ewes return at 13.00 hours. During the morning they have access to bagasse and molasses.

In Cuba, the policy on the State farms is to form a new breed by crossing the Pelibüey with improved mutton-wool breeds. The Suffolk, Cheviot, Corriedale and Dorset have been used in experimental crossing. The Suffolk is favoured and trials are in progress to determine the optimum proportion of Suffolk blood. Suffolk x Pelibüey F1 ewes are being put to a Suffolk ram so, that the halfbred can be compared with the threequarterbred.

This policy may be satisfactory for State Farms but there seems little doubt that under ordinary levels of feeding and management it is the pure hair breed which will perform best. In view of the large number of these sheep, a selection programme should be initiated.


Mason, I.L. 1978. Report on a visit during 4 January-14 February 1978, to Barbados, St Croix, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico, U.S.A. FAO/UNEP Project “Conservation of Animal Genetic Resources -Prolific Tropical Sheep”. FAO, Rome, (Mimeo).


Origin and history. Pelibüey sheep were introduced from Cuba to the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico probably in the 1930s but possibly earlier. Because of their ability to live in the hot, humid tropical environment they gradually moved westward into Tabasco and Vera Cruz, but even in the census of 1960 the number of sheep in Campeche and Tabasco was given as zero with only 149 in Quintano Roo (Berruecos et al., 1975). Their name became corrupted to Peligüey. Now they have been renamed Tabasco (see Plate 11). The first appearance of this name is in Ruz (1963). Official policy is to expand numbers as rapidly as possible and to this end export of females is forbidden. It is estimated that they now number about 100,000. (The rest of the 4.5 million sheep in Mexico are wooledeither Criollo or its crosses with Rambouillet. There are also a few pure and crossbred Suffolk, Hampshire, Dorset, and Corriedale). Most of the flocks are small but there are large experimental flocks on several experiment stations of the Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Pecuarios (INIP). As a result, most of the hard facts about the Pelibüey are derived from the Tabasco sheep of Mexico.

In many ways the Tabasco is similar to the Barbados Blackbelly and a study of blood polymorphisms by Guzman et al. (1975, 1976) showed that while there are significant differences in two or three cases the two breeds could derive from the same ancestral stock. The Barbados Blackbelly appear higher on the leg than the Pelibüey of the same colour at Mocochá Experiment Station, Mexico, but are probably no different in weight (Mason, 1978).

Colour. It is the white and tan varieties which were imported to Mexico. Tan and white are the commonest colours but tan-and-white, tan and black and white (“payaso” = harlequin), tan with black belly, and tan with black face stripes, can be seen (Mason, 1978). The various shades of tan are called “café”, “café tabasco” and “rojo” by Berruecos et al. (1975). Black is rare. The same authors describe the black belly pattern as “golondrino”. They also mention black body with pale belly (i.e. reversed badger face).

Tan (“café”) animals have a higher percentage of wool fibres and are more variable in this respect than the white animals which have a higher average fibre diameter. Tan is dominant to the other colours and patterns of the Tabasco (there is more doubt about pied) but the white of the Merino is dominant to Tabasco tan (Berruecos et al., 1975).

Description. Berruecos et al. (1975) give the following description which they modified from Ruz (1966): “Mesocephalic, broad rounded forehead without horns, with two depressions behind the orbits, orbits protuberant, face of medium length and breadth with large sebaceous glands below the internal angle of the eye, profile straight, semiconvex or convex. Hair on the face short and fine, skin fine and close-fitting. Ears short and lanceolate, covered with fine, short and smooth hair, carried horizontally. Eyes large, not prominent, coffee to green in colour. Mouth small and lips strong, the upper one cleft in the centre. Ocular, nasal and buccal mucosae can be pink or pigmented.

“The neck is short, strong and rounded. The male usually has long hair extending from the occiput to the withers and ventrally from the pharyngeal region to the beginning of the chest. This hair is not present in the female in which the neck is finer, longer and thinner. Sometimes wattles are present in the pharyngeal region.

“The trunk is cylindrical with prominent withers, dorsal line straight or saddled, rump straight or slightly sloping, tail thin with a low insertion and about 30 cm long, generally with a white tip. Ribs well sprung and with a good thoracic capacity, abdomen spacious and hips strong and rounded. The skin is fairly closely adherent; it is covered with hair and a short undercoat of wool which is sometimes visible.

The legs are of medium size, straight, slender and fine, covered with close fitting skin and short hair. The typical ovine interdigital sebaceous gland is voluminous. Hooves are light or pigmented.”

From his observations Mason (1978) reported that the development of the shoulder hair in the male is very variable. Some animals have the mane without the throat ruff. At the Mocochá station in Yucatán about 1 – 2 percent of animals carry wattles and 3 – 4 percent of rams develop small horns; these latter are culled.

Adult males weigh 44 – 50 kg (Ruz, 1963, 1966) and females 35 – 40 kg (Ruz, 1963, 1966; Castillo et al., 1972; Berruecos et al., 1975). Height at withers is 64 – 66 cm for males and 59 – 66 cm for females (Ruz, 1963, 1966; Castillo et al., 1972). However, Berruecos et al. (1975) give the higher figures of 78 and 67 cm for 6 males and 138 females at Tizimín experiment station, Yucatán. Ruz (1966) gives complete body measurements for 6 males and 20 females (see Table 13) and Talavera et al. (1974a) measured 450 animals of mixed sex and age.

Management. Tabasco sheep first became popular among small farmers who until their introduction had owned no livestock. They are kept with minimum attention to supply the family needs of meat. They are also important for grazing under fruit trees (e.g. mangos and citrus) in Cuba and in Vera Cruz, Mexico. In Yucatán they are being tried out to graze in the henequen (sisal) plantations.

On large farms and experiment stations in Mexico they are grazed on improved pastures. Experiments have shown that they can be kept at a stocking rate of 12 – 22 head per hectare on pastures of Cynodon plectostachyus, Cynodon dactylon, Panicum maximum, Pennisetum clandestinum, Brachiaria ruziziensis and Digitaria decumbens among others (Torres, 1974; Arroyo, 1974; Trevino, 1974; Torres et al., 1975). Daily gains varied from 44 to 79 g according to pasture and stocking rate.

Table 13 Body measurements of Tabasco sheep (cm)
Withers height6566
Length of forelegs to elbow4036
Length of back (withers to pins)6456
Chest width3021
Chest girth9587
Cannon-bone girth9.57.5
Cranial length (occiput to nose)3331
Face length (eye to nose)1816
Face width (between eyes)1310
Craniomaxillary perimeter (in front of ears)5142
Ear length99
Ear width65
Tail length3326

Source: Ruz (1966)

On the INIP experimental stations the sheep are grazed for 3 –4 hours early in the morning and again in the late afternoon. They spend the midday hours and the night in corrals where they have access to water, mineral licks, and supplementary feed prior to mating and to lambing (Valencia et al., 1975; Pena, 1976). In the dry season in Yucatán they are fed roughage such as maize silage and henequen pulp.

Lambs are weaned at 4 months on government farms. A trial on small numbers of partly housed animals showed that lambs weaned at 75, 90, 105 or 200 days did not differ in weight at one year but the ewes conceived a month earlier following the early weaning (Castillo, Román and Berruecos, 1974). However subsequent experience on pasture showed that weaning at 75 days gave the lambs a big set-back with high susceptibility to parasites and diseases, often leading to death (Valencia et al., 1975). The age at weaning has therefore been raised to 4 months and may be raised further (Mason, 1978).

Diseases. The chief trouble arises from gastro-intestinal parasites and in times of stress, e.g. ewes in lactation or lambs after weaning, mortality from this cause may be as high as 60 percent (Valencia et al., 1975). In the INIP stations in Mexico sheep are regularly dewormed e.g. at the beginning of the rainy season and two or three times later at intervals of 17 days. The commonest genus of nematode is Haemonchus , followed by Oesophagostomum, Chabertia, Cooperia, Trichostrongylus, Ostertagia, Nematodirus, Strongyloides and Bunostomum (Barrios et al., 1973). Methods of treatment have been studied by Herrera et al. (1973 a and b); Barrios et al. (1974); Ortega et al. (1974). Monieziasis may give trouble in the first few months of life (Quiroz et al., 1972).

The second most important disease is foot rot and regular treatment with copper sulphate in a footbath is essential (Valencia et al., 1975). The incidence of haemorrhagic septicaemia and of blackleg is low. There are no ticks or lice. Scab is cured by a single dipping (Mason, 1978).

In experimental tests 2.5 percent of animals exhibited antibodies against Brucella ovis (Suares et al., 1974) and 21 percent reacted to the Cooms antiglobulin test for B. melitensis (Martinez et al., 1974).

Reproduction. The Tabasco breed shows oestrus at all times of the year (Valencia et al., 1975) but the proportion of ewes on heat is low (60 – 70 percent) during February-May (Peña, 1976). The conception rate is highnormally over 90 percent. Litter size is 1.2–1.4 depending on the nutrional level. These and other indices of female reproduction are listed in Table 14. The first four columns represent single experiments (or observations); the next two are results quoted in review articles, which therefore may be repetitive, and the last is a personal communication.

Salinas et al. (1975) and Peña (1976) reported the results of feeding concentrate supplements to ewes during lactation or pregnancy or both. Supplementation raised the twinning rate from 3 percent to 24 – 27 percent and reduced the interval between parturition and oestrus from 43 to 33 – 34 days (or from 92 to 69 – 84 days in a second experiment). However, conception to first service was reduced from 94 to 67 percent so that interval from parturition to conception was not significantly changed (from 44 days for the untreated to 39 – 42 days in the supplemented groups).

Table 14 Aspects of female reproduction of Tabasco sheep on INIP stations in Mexico
StationHueytamalcoPaso del ToroTizimínPaso del Toro TizimínMocochá
No. of ewes394928829–62  300
Year1970 and 197119711972 and 19731970–73  1978
FeedPasturePasture & sorghumPasturePasture + feed  Pasture
Age 1st oestrus (days)   300 ± 61 300328
Weight 1st oestrus (kg)   22.8±2.7  21.8
Oestrus length (hrs)  36.328.4±7.724–4824–48 
Cycle length (days)  17.4 17.5±1.516–20 
Age 1st lamb (days)   481   
Parturition to oestrus (days)57±4954±35  25–6021–90 
Conception rate (%)709789.493.590+89.490
Gestation length (days)149±4150±2149 150±3149±3 
Lambing interval (days)271±78229±38   248±61240
Litter size1.19±0.41.29a±0.41.18 1.19-1.401.18-1.401.20
SourceCastillo et Valencia etal., 1972
al., 1975
Valencia et al., 1974cCastillo et al., 1974a, 1977Valencia et al., 1975Peña, 1976Masonb, 1978

a. Recalculated
b. Personal communication from Valencia

Characteristics of semen of twelve Tabasco rams collected by electro-ejaculation are shown in Table 15.

Table 15 Semen characters of 12 Tabasco rams (mean ± standard deviation)
Age (days)231231422
Weight (kg)29.429.444
Volume (ml)0.6±0.50.3±0.30.8±0.9
Motility (%)70±0.366±0.571±7.5
Density (per ml)(2.55±.01)×109(1.29±.03)×109(2.85±.23)x109
Abnormal sperm (%)6.9±9.43.6±1.34.6±3.8

Source: Castillo et al., 1976.

Better samples were obtained with the artificial vagina than by electro-ejaculation (see Table 16).

Table 16 Semen characters of 16 Tabasco rams (16 ejaculates from each ram)
Method of collectionArtificial vaginaElectro-ejaculation
Volume (ml)0.88±0.30.68±0.3
Density (per ml)(6.75±2.87)x109(2.93±2.78)x109
Motility (%)83±1074±20
Abnormal sperm (%)7.3±3.66.2±4.3
Live sperm (%)88±684±20
Motile sperm (per ml)(5.08±3.20)x109(1.80±2.33)x109

Source: Hernandez et al., 1976.

Mortality. At Mocochá, before treatment for worms was started, mortality up to 6 months was as high as 25 – 30 percent. Now young animals (2½ - 6 months of age) are drenched every two weeks and mortality has been reduced to 4 percent. The small farmer does not suffer in this way because his animals graze over a wide area (Mason, 1978).

At Paso del Toro, lamb mortality up to 6 months during 1970–73 was 9.4 percent for single and twin lambs and 35.7 percent for triplets and quadruplets. In 1972 weight of ewes and conception rate were very low while lamb mortality rose to 16.4 percent. This was attributed to parasitosis (Castillo et al., 1974b).

Body weight and growth rate. Table 17 shows some birth and weaning weights taken on various experimental stations in Mexico.

Table 17 Birth and weaning weights of Tabasco sheep (no. of animals in brackets)
StationBirth wt (kg)Weaning wt (kg)
( 3 months )
Daily gain to weaning
Hueytamalco, 1970–712.6±0.5(69)2.1±0.5(32)   Castillo et al., 1972
Paso del Toro, 19712.8±0.6(48)2.2±0.5(24)    
Tizimín2.78±0.51(130)11.03±2.5(130)120±30(130)Valencia et al., 1972
Hueytamalco2.44±0.6(144)11.18±2.79(144)97±26(144)Talavera et al., 1974b
Paso del Toro, 1970–732.72.21512.7 Castillo et al., 1974b
Tizimín2.79±0.482.21±0.45(55)16.1±2.6(106)11.4±2.6(55) Valencia et al., 1974b
CAMPA, Tampico2.5(121)     Gonzalez et al., 197?

Males weighed about 0.2 kg more than females at birth and about 2 kg more at weaning. Figures for weights after weaning are given by Valencia et al. (1974b) as follows:

Weight at 120 days: singles: 18.1±2.9 kg (92); twins 12.9±2.8 (46)
Weight at 1 year: singles: 29.2±6.8 kg (92); twins 23.7±6.1 (45)

Gonzalez et al. (197?) gives an 8-month weight of 30.2 kg for male singles, 29.5 for male twins, 25.7 for female singles and 22.8 for female twins.

Valencia et al. (1974a) slaughtered 40 males at 11 months of age with an average liveweight of 29.9 kg and carcass weight of 14.3 kg giving a dressingout percentage of 47.9.

Improvement and research. The policy of INIP is to obtain as much information about the breed as possible before any crossbreeding is attempted. To that end several of the experiment stations (“Centro Experimental Pecuario”) have established flocks of Tabasco sheep. The principal flocks are at Tizimín, and Mocochá, Yucatán; “La Posta”, Paso del Toro, Vera Cruz and “Las Margaritas”, Hueytamalco, Teziutlan, Puebla. Several small stations on the tropical Pacific coast are also starting up with sheep. The results of research and observation made at the main stations have been quoted above. The research programme at Tizimín is described by Peña (1976).

At Mocochá there are three main research programme - reproduction, genetics and nutrition. In the reproduction programme an attempt is being made to reduce the lambing interval from the present figure of 8 months i.e. to raise the number of lambings per year from 1.5 to 1.7 in one line and to 2.0 in a second. Induced parturition and synchronized oestrus may be necessary to achieve the 6-month interval. In the genetics programme, three lines are in operation. One is selected for prolificacy - rams must be born as twins and ewes must produce twins on two occasions. The second is selected for growth rate up to one year. The third is a control line in which there is no selection. In the nutrition programme the feeding of henequen pulp together with protein supplements (coconut, cotton seed, fish meal, safflower) has been studied. Other research is on legumes, effect of time of supplementation (before or after lambing) and of “flushing” (supplementation before mating) (Mason, 1978).

At Hueytamalco a special line of research has studied the blood picture and blood chemistry of the Tabasco sheep (Larios et al., 1976; Cantó et al., 1976).

Small experimental flocks are also maintained by the University of Mexico at its Centro Nacional de Ensenãnza, Investigación y Extensión de la Zootecnia, Cuatro Milpas, Tepotzotlan, and by the Centro de Adestramiento y Mejoramiento de la Producción Animal (CAMPA) at “El Apuro”, Aldama, near Tampico, Tamaulipas.

Crossbreeding. At an early stage in the study of Tabasco sheep a male was used on Merino ewes (Ruz, 1966). The crosses had low quality wool on the body while the head and legs were bare of wool; they were poorly adapted to the tropical environment.

At Cuatro Milpas grade Dorsets have been crossed with Tabasco rams. The F1 is called “Tarset”. It is a white wooled animal with bare belly and is superior to both parents in growth rate and fertility. Its twinning rate (on small numbers) is 50 percent compared with 20 – 30 percent for the pure Tabasco. The Tarsets are being put to a Suffolk ram (Mason, 1978). The onset of puberty was studied in nine Tabasco x Dorset F1 males using as criterion the presence of live spermatoza in the ejaculate. Seven reached puberty at 132 ±9 days with an average weight of 29.7 ± 2 kg. The remaining two did not reach puberty until 41 days later with an average weight of 23 kg (Valencia et al., 1977).

Conclusions. Mexico is to be commended for its systematic exploration of this new genetic resource. While the litter size may not equal that of the Caribbean island breeds the Tabasco shares with them the early sexual maturity, high fertility and short lambing interval which makes it a highly fecund breed. The information which has been gained on methods of management and productivity will be useful to all breeders of American hair sheep whether prolific or not.

Experience elsewhere indicates the wisdom of the policy of not crossbreeding females. Selection within the pure breed should be able to improve performance without losing adaptation. On the other hand the successful use of Tabasco males on the wooled Criollo breeds indicates another way of exploiting the hair sheep, which will not lead to dilution of their blood.


Arroyo R., D., 1974. Evaluación de la capacidad de carga en pasto guinea con borrego Tabasco o Peliguey en Playa Vicente, Veracrúz, clima Am. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 18. (Abstract).

Barrios, Z., Quiroz, H., Lagunes, J. and Robles, C., 1973. Identificación de generos de larvas infectantes de nematodos gastroentéricos de ovinos Tabasco o Peliguey en clima A(f) C. 10a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 57. (Abstract).

Barrios, Z., Quiroz R., H., Castillo, H. and Ortega, I.V., 1974. Control de nematodos gastroentéricos en borrego Tabasco o Peliguey en clima tropical Aw. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 19. (Abstract).

Berruecos V., J.M., Valencia Z., M. and Castillo R., H., 1975. Genética del borrego Tabasco o Peligüey. Técnica Pecuario en México, 29: 59–65.

Cantó, G.J., Monroy A., V., Rodríguez del Rosal, E., Larios G., F., 1976. Química sanguínea en ovinos de la raza Tabasco o Pelibuey en clima subtropical. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 30: 110. (Abstract).

Castillo R., H., Valencia Z., M. and Berruecos V., J.M., 1972. Comportamiento reproductivo del borrego Tabasco mantenido en clima tropical y subtropical. I. Indices de fertilidad. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 20: 52–56.

Castillo R., H., Berruecos, J.M. Hernández, L.J., Pérez S., J.M., Lopez, A.J. and Quezada, R., 1974a. Comportamiento reproductivo del borrego Tabasco o Peliguey mantenido en clima tropical. IIa Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 16. (Abstract).

Castillo R., H., Berruecos, J.M., Quezada, B.R., Pérez S., J.M., Hernández, L.J. and López, A.J., 1974b. Cambios en la eficiencia reproductiva (70–73) en el hato de borrego Tabasco o Peliguey mantenido en semiestabulación en trópico mexicano. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 17. (Abstract).

Castillo R., H., Román P., H. and Berruecos V., J.M., 1974c. Característica de crecimiento del borrego Tabasco. Efecto de la edad y peso al destete y su influencia sobre la fertilidad de la madre. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 27: 28–32.

Castillo R., H., Berruecos V., J.M., Pérez S., J.M., Hernandez L., J.J. and Quezada B., R., 1976. Comportamiento reproductivo del borrego Tabasco mantenido en clima tropical. II. Características seminales. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 31: 63–67.

Castillo R., H., Hernández L., J.J., Berruecos V., J.M. and Lopez A., J.J., 1977. Comportamiento reproductivo del borrego Tabasco mantenido en clima tropical. III. Pubertad y duración del estro. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 32: 32–35.

FAO, 1978. Production Yearbook 1977. No. 31, FAO, Rome.

González R., A., De Alba M., J. and Foote, W.C., 197?. Crecimiento de corderos Peliguey en pastoreo.

Guzmán G., R., Garza R., J. and Berruecos V., J.M., 1975. Determinación de los grupos sanguineos solubles del borrego Tabasco o Peliguey. 12a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 10. (Abstract).

Guzmán G., R., Garza R., J., Martinez R., L. and Salinas T., E., 1976. Determinación de los grupos sanguineos solubles del borrego “Black Belly”. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 30: 95. (Abstract).

Hernández L., J.J.P., Rodriguez R., O. and González P., E., 1976. Evaluación de cuatro metodos para colección de semen en borrego Tabasco o Pelibuey. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 30: 45–51.

Herrera, D., Quiroz, H., Lagunes, J., Dávalos, E., Dominguez, P., García, R., Trejo, J.F. and Trigo, J.F., 1973a. Importancia de la cronología en la terapia antihelmíntica en ovinos Tabasco o Peliguey en clima tropical A(f)C. 10a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 58. (Abstract).

Herrera, D., Quiroz, H., Lagunes, J. and Robles, C., 1973b. Comportamiento de dos antihelmínticos contra nematodos gastroentéricos de ovinos Tabasco en clima A(f)C. 10a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 57–58. (Abstract).

Larios G., F., Lora M., P.P., Trigo T., F. and Rodrígez del Rosal, E., 1976. Fisiologia del ovino Tabasco o Pelibuey en clima subtropical A(f)C: I. Hematologia y niveles sericos de calcio, fósforo y magnesio. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 30: 84–90.

Martínez V., E., Ciprian C., A. and Flores C., R., 1974. Estudios serológicos sobre Brucella melitensis en borrego Tabasco o Peliguey. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 20. (Abstract).

Martínez R., L., Merino Z., H. and Ortiz O., G., 1975. Alimentación del borrego Tabasco o Peliguey en crecimiento y finalización. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 29: 110. (Abstract).

Mason, I.L., 1978. Report on a visit during 4 January-14 February 1978 to Barbados, St. Croix, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico, U.S.A. FAO/UNEP Project “Conservation of Animal Genetic Resources -Prolific Tropical Sheep”. FAO, Rome (mimeo).

Ortega, I.V., Nájera F., R., Talavera, J.C. and Robles B., C., 1974. Efecto de la aspersión de tiabendozole en el pasto sobre la productividad de borrego Tabasco o Peliguey. 11a Reunión Anual INIP, México, p. 19–20. (Abstract).

Ortiz, G., Zorrilla R., J.M. and Merino Z., H., 1974. Estudio preliminar de requerimiento proteícos y energéticos de borregas Tabasco o Peliguey en gestación. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 17. (Abstract).

Peña T., F.J., 1976. Cria y explotación del borrego Tabasco. In “ler Día del Ganadero, Centro Experimental Pecuario Tizimín, Octubre 1976”, pp. 43–47. INIP, Mexico.

Quiroz, H., Serran, E., Ortega, I.V., Robles, C., Lagunes, J. and Nájera, R., 1972. Importancia económica de la monieziosis en ovinos Tabasco o Peliguey en clima A(f)C. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 21: 59. (Abstract).

Ruz, J.G., 1963. Modificaciones de la piel y capa lanosa en los borregos de Tabasco. 1a Reunión Anual del Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Pecuarias, México (quoted by Berruecos et al., 1975).

Ruz, J.G., 1966. Estudio del ovino tropical “Peliguey” del sureste de México y sus cruzas con ovino Merino. Tesis (M.V.Z.), National University of Mexico, Mexico City (quoted by Berruecos et al., 1975).

Salinas T., E., Martínez R., L., Peña T., F. and González P., E., 1975. Efecto de suplementación en gestación y lactancia en borregas Tabasco o Peliguey sobre la aparición del primer celo y el peso al destete de los corderos. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 29: 121. (Abstract).

Sánchez, A., Quiroz, H. and Lagunes, J., 1973. Frecuencia y abundancia de las especies del género Eimeria en ovinos en clima tropical, A(f)C. 10a Reunión Anul del INIP, Mexico, p. 58–59. (Abstract).

Suáres G., F., Martínez V., E. and Flores C., R., 1974. Presencia de anticuerpos contra Brucella ovis en borrego Tabasco o Peliguey. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 20. (Abstract).

Talavera U., J.C., González P., J.M. and Berruecos V., J.M., 1974a. Análisis de algunas características fenotípicas del borrego Tabasco o Peliguey. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 15. (Abstract).

Talavera U., J.C., González P., J.M., Berruecos V., J.M., 1974b. Factores genéticos y ambientales en el crecimiento al destete del borrego Tabasco o Peliguey. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 15. (Abstract).

Torres H., M., 1974. Producción de carne de borrego Tabasco o Peliguey en pastoreo de zacate ferrer y guinea en Tizimín, Yuc. clima Aw. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 17–18. (Abstract).

Torres H., M., Garza T., R. and Molina S., I., 1975. Estudio sobre capacidades de carga de borrego Tabasco o Peliguey en zacate estrella de Africa en Tizimín, Yucatán. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 24: 99. (Abstract).

Treviño S., M., 1974. Pruebas de aceptación de plantas forrajeras y aumento de peso con borrego Tabasco o Peliguey en Hueytamalco, Puebla, Clima A(f)C. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 19. (Abstract).

Valencia, J., Barrón, C. and Fernández Baca, S., 1977. Pubertad en corderos Tabasco x Dorset. Veterinaria Mexicana, 8: 127–130.

Valencia Z., M., Villarreal, M. and Berruecos V., J.M., 1972. Crecimiento en el borrego Tabasco o Peliguey. II. Curva de crecimiento durante la lactancia. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 21: 30. (Abstract).

Valencia Z., M., Berruecos V., J.M., Salinas T., E., 1974a. Características de la canal del borrego Tabasco o Peliguey. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 15. (Abstract).

Valencia Z., M., Salinas T., E. and Berruecos V., J.M., 1974b. Crecimiento y productividad del borrego Tabasco o Peligüey al ano de edad. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, p.2.

Valencia Z., M., Salinas T., E. Berruecos V., J.M., 1974c. Evaluación de la fertilidad del borrego Tabasco o Peliguey en Yucatán. 11a Reunión Anual del INIP, México, p. 16. (Abstract).

Valencia Z., M., Castillo R., H. and Berruecos V., J.M. 1975. Reproducción y manejo del borrego Tabasco o Peligüey. Técnica Pecuaria en México, 29: 66–72.


In the Dominican Republic there are only 52,000 sheep (FAO, 1978). About 90 percent of these are said to be hair sheep. In or about 1932 Battista presented Trujillo with some of the red Pelibüey sheep of Cuba. They thrived and spread and are now found in small flocks over a wide area, especially around Santiago. However there must have been hair sheep on the island earlier since the common sheep are hairy but smaller and less uniform than the Pelibüey. They are lighter, shorter in the body and longer in the leg. Their colour varies from white, through pale tan to dark red-brown. Their coat is less sleek than the Pelibüey and they carry some wool on their backs. In fact there are also wooled Criollo in the Dominican Republic and the common sheep may be derived from crossing between these and hair sheep (Mason, 1978).

2.7 AFRICAN SHEEP IN COLOMBIA by Riberto Bautista Otero and Juan José Salazar Cruz

Name and history. African sheep originate from the west of the African continent (Bautista, 1977). Large numbers of these sheep came to America, and particularly to Colombia, with the slaves from that region and the present population derives from the surviving remnants of those embarked to feed the slaves. Later this type of sheep was also introduced into Colombia by merchants of the Magdalena department who traded with Aruba and Curaçao, and also by smugglers who travelled between the Caribbean Islands and Guajira. The most recent arrivals are the sheep imported by Don Manuel Majia in 1940 and taken to the districts of Armero, Honda and venadillo, where they still exist.

This type of sheep is very mixed and only in a few flocks can pure specimens be found. However, it is possible to distinguish two types: one yellow with reddish-brown shades (called Sudan) and the other red - cherry red and dark red verging on black (called Etiope). (These names have no relation to countries of origin).

In Colombia African sheep are known by various names: “Rojo Africano”, “Pelona”, “Camura”, “Criollo” (Montoya, 1957).

Numbers. The national sheep population consists of Criollo (wooled), African and crossbred types, with a few flocks of improved breeds, as shown in the following table:

National sheep population - 1975

Improved breeds31,7851.5


As regards the population of African sheep, it can be estimated that some 35 percent are purebreds and 65 percent crossbreds.

According to the livestock programme of the Ministry of Agriculture (1975), 37 percent of the total population consists of animals aged less than 1 year old and 63 percent of animals more than one year old. Of the total sheep population, 36 percent are males and 64 percent females.

Distribution. African sheep are reared in various regions of Colombia in which, owing to the climatic conditions, wool sheep cannot flourish and produce; they are extremely hardy, thriving in inhospitable areas, with periods of excessive drought and with scanty pastures.

They are found in the departments of Córdoba, Sucre, Bolívar, Atlántico, Magdalena, Guajira, Cesar, Santander, Cundinamarca, Tolima, Cauca, Huila and Meta (see Fig. 1).

From Guajira these sheep have penetrated into the neighbouring Zulia province of Venezuela where they are known as Roja Africana (González Jiménez, 1979) (see Plates 12 and 13).

Description. The African sheep of Colombia are very similar to the Pelibüey of Mexico already described in Section 2.5. The yellow or Sudan type varies in colour from yellow to reddish brown, some almost white specimens being found. The red or Etiope (Ethiopian) type is red, sometimes so dark as to appear black. It is slightly longer in the leg than the yellow type.

The African sheep are agile, resourceful, hardy and adapt to all management systems, even becoming very tame; they respond with affection and faithfulness to the treatment and care given them by their owner. It should be noted, however, that they are susceptible to foot rot when the annual rainfall exceeds 1,000 mm.

The following measurements (cm) have been obtained from a population of 300 adult red African sheep on the Granja de Venadillo, Tolima.

Withers heightRump heightDepth of chestWidth of chestChest girthWidth of rumpLength of body

The weight of this breed at different ages is 2.5 kg at birth; 15–18 kg at weaning (4 months) and 35–40 kg at one year. By fattening up to twelve months, weights of 49 kg are obtained for males and 45 kg for females. A four-year-old male in good condition may weigh 80 kg.

Management. There is almost no commercial sheep production in the country, with the exception of government enterprises in which purebred animals are kept on improved pastures, are given mineralized salt and receive adequate management. 95 percent of the sheep rearing is carried out on a family basis by primitive methods using empirical techniques and subsistence farming criteria.

The largest farms are between 20 and 100 hectares. 40 percent of the flocks have 50 or less sheep; 34 percent between 51 and 100; and 24 percent between 101 and 500. There is only one flock with more than 1,000 animals. (Flores and Vargaz, 1970; Otero de la Espriella, 1973).

Reproduction. It is the custom among our peasants for the breeding ram to live with the flock, no control being exerted over mating. This system requires at least 4 rams for every 100 ewes. In commercial farms controlled mating is used; chalk-covered harness is placed on the breeding ram, the colour being changed after three cycles (17 days per cycle), i.e. every 51 days.

The animals start to serve at 15 months and the ewes are put to the rams from 10 and 14 months onward; the average age at first lambing is between 15 and 19 months. Three lambings are obtained every two years.

According to studies by Montoya (1957) in the Granja de Venadillo, Tolima, fertility rates of 98 percent were obtained, with 32 percent of the births giving twins and 1 percent triplets. This is a prolificacy of 134 percent. This is almost the same as the prolificacy of 138 percent given by González Stagnaro (1976) for the flock of Red African sheep at Zulia University, Venezuela. The average gestation period is 152 days. The African breed has the lowest mortality among Colombia sheep breeds, with 10 to 12 percent for young animals and 2 to 3 percent for adults. (accidents).

Selection so far has concentrated on the phenotypic characteristics of each type of African sheep, namely adaptability, prolificacy and body development. Selected rams are sold both by government farms and by some private producers.

Marketing. In most regions of the country marketing takes the form of sale of the live animals to the butcher, usually at the weekly fair. The price paid is agreed between buyer and seller, the buyer making a rough assessment of the animal's value. Although there are no statistics which make possible a detailed analysis, it can be stated that there is industrial under-utilization of sheep meat, since apart from the Zenú producers of Medellín and a few meat-product shops and canning factories in the capital, the sheep meat produced is intended for direct and internal consumption. Much of the slaughtering in the countryside is clandestine. There is also clandestine trade of live animals to neighbouring countries.

Conclusions. The African sheep in Colombia represents an important resource for the small farmer. Its adaptation is indicated by the large population which has developed without any encouragement or support from breed society or government organizations.

Its conservation and improvement need official recognition. A survey should be made of the distribution and numbers of these sheep together with information on management and performance. For the purpose of improvement and further diffusion more sheep breeding centres should be set up, particularly on the Atlantic coast. At the same time sheep farmers need increased technical assistance.


Bautista, R., 1977. Oveja Africana. Manual de Ovinos. Temas de Orientación Agropecuaria, Bogotá, No. 125. 64pp.

Florez, V. and Vargas, S., 1970. Problemas de Producción y Mercadeo de la Industria Ovina en Colombia. Departamento de Economía Agrícola, Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario, Boletín No. 7.

González Jiménez, E., 1979. Las razas ovínas adaptadas a las condiciones climaticas de Venezuela. TS.

González Stagnaro, C., 1976. Ovinos tropicales: la oveja Roja Africana. Mimeo. 19 pp. Universidad del Zulia, Facultad de Agronomia, Maracaibo.

Montoya, R., 1957. Estudio sobre la oveja Africana. Tesis de grado, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá.

Otero de la Espriella. 1973. Oveja para el trópico. Revista ESSO, Agrícola, Bogotá, 4: 11.

2.8 MORADA NOVA OF BRAZIL by E.A.P. Figueiredo

Name and history. The name was given to the red variety by Prof. Octavio Domingues, during his visit to Northeast Brazil in June 1927, because they were first seen by him in the Municipality of Morada Nova, State of Ceará (see Plate 14). Other names which have been used are Deslanado do Nordeste (=Northeastern woolless), Deslanado vermelho (=red woolless) and Deslanado branco (=white woolless). At a meeting held by the Ministry of Agriculture in Fortaleza, Ceará, in October 1977, it was decided to use the name Morada Nova for both varieties, red and white. The white Pele de Boi of Bahia was included with the Santa Inês breed (white variety). This breed may be red, pied, black or white. The Santa Inês breed results from crossbreeding between the Morada Nova (red or white) and the Bergamasca breed of Italy. It inherits the roman nose, lop ears and traces of wool from the Bergamasca and its hair coat from the Morada Nova (see Plate 15).

According to Domingues (1954) the red, white and spotted hair sheep are descended from the Bordaleiro of Portugal which came to Brazil at the time when these virgin areas were being populated. These Bordaleiro sheep are distinguished by their coat, which is a mixture of hair and wool. In the course of time, natural selection favoured the survival of woolless individuals with short, goatlike hair in the midst of others with longer, coarse hair and even with varying degrees of woolliness. However the Morada Nova is very similar to the red African breed of Venezuela. [While there may be Bordaleiro blood in the Morada Nova it seems likely that African blood is predominant. Ed.]

Distribution and number. The woolless sheep inhabit an extensive area which includes practically all the Sertão (drylands) of the northeast. Domingues (1954) recorded the occurrence of woolless sheep in all the northeastern States, from Alagoas to Piauí. It is typical of the Sertão but a few isolated individuals are found away from this area or in the mountains.

In the flocks of the Sertão, woolless individuals are mixed with others having varying degrees of woolliness, from a fine fleece to a covering of coarse wool leaving bare the head, legs and belly (see Plate 15).

Of all the States of Brazil, Ceará seems to be the one in which there is the greatest concentration of woolless sheep, particularly in the Jaguaribe valley and that of its tributary, the Salgado. The Sertão of the lower and middle Jaguaribe had 185,480 head (the largest population of sheep in the State), and the Sertão of the Salgado and Jaguaribe, 144,210 head (Domingues, 1954). These two zones included one third of Ceará's sheep population which numbered 942,180 head in 1954. At present it is 1, 134, 000, the third largest number of the States of Brazil (Anuário Estatistico do Brasil, 1976).

We are not able to give the total number of purebred animals but the number of purebreds registered in the Provisional Herd Book for the Morada Nova breed up to May 1978 was 8 males and 60 females (Ovinocultura, 1978).

Environment (EMBRAPA, 1974). The basic environmental factor in the semi-arid zone is the scarcity and poor distribution of rainfall which is concentrated in a single period (3 to 5 months). Rainfall is so irregular as to make annual averages meaningless; they vary between 150 and 1,300 mm. Rainfall is also irregular during the rainy period and from one place to another, coming in the form of heavy cloudbursts.

In the semi-arid zone average annual temperatures are high, between 23 and 27°C, varying very little from one region to another and with daily and monthly fluctuations of 10°C and 5–10°C, respectively.

Compared with the semi-arid zone, the Agreste zone is characterized by a better distribution of rainfall. It is the intermediate area between the humid zones (mid-north and Littoral-Mata) and the semi-arid zone. The average annual rainfall in the various localities in the Agreste zone varies between 650 and 1,000 mm. The largest sheep populations are located in areas with yearly rainfall between 600 and 1,000 mm. In a general way the soils of this area have the drawbacks of being shallow and low in fertility and water retaining capacity, thus requiring either irrigation or special dry-land farming techniques.

There are three types of vegetable formation in the semi-arid zone:

  1. caatinga campestre (caatinga = thorn forest),

  2. thick bushy-arboreous caatinga,

  3. scattering of other vegetable formations within the caatinga area.

The natural caatinga campestre covers small areas and is overlaid by a vegetable cover of wild grasses - usually discontinuous – intermingled with smallm bushes and sometimes replaced by large tufts or small areas of herbs usually belonging to the Gramineae, Compositae, Leguminosae and Malvaceae. The herbaceous covering may be replaced by some trailing Cactaceae and small land Bromeliaceae. Round the edges of the clearing there may be thickets of bushes and small trees, usually covering small areas. The landscape is known by the name of dry, scattered caatinga or ‘Seridó’ and is found here and there in the States of Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba.

The stratified bushy-arboreous caatinga is now rather sparse due to devastation caused by felling. It is usually found covering small areas, in rather inaccessible localities, on relatively fertile soils.

In most cases, the bushy-arboreous caatinga has been replaced by caatinga ‘capoeiras’. This is a secondary forest arising from enclosed areas that were formerly cultivated.

There are other scattered vegetable formations inside the caatinga zone. These consist of evergreen bushes situated in more favourable ecological surroundings.

Breed description (Associação Brasileira de Criadores de Ovinos, 1977)

The weight and body measurements of this breed are shown in Table 18.

Table 18 Some weights and heights of Morada Nova sheep
Body weight
Wither height
Body weight
Wither height
Milk teeth4323.93.460.06.31524.43.761.12.8
2-tooth1926.  925.93.461.23.8
4-tooth2026.83.361.43.4  429.
6-tooth3729.73.662.03.5  537.43.669.23.1
Full mouth7431.

These figures were established on the basis of measurements on approximately 360 individuals by technicians of the EMBRAPA National Goat Research Centre (CNPC), and are part of the biometric work being carried out by the Centre. Sheep are slaughtered at an age of 18–24 months and a weight of 27–35 kg. Cull ewes and rams weigh about 30 kg.

Conformation: deep thorax, flat ribs, not very developed belly, well-muscled thighs and thin rump. The wither is evident in the male and sunken in the female. Head broad and long, sub-convex profile, short muzzle, thin neck, short slightly inclined rump, long thin tail, thin vertical legs, small strong hooves.

Coat: various shades of red, lighter in the region of the perinaeum, scrotum, udder and head; white tail tip; dark skin covered with short hair, dark mucosae. There is also a variety with a white coat. The proportion of different colours has not been determined.

Hair is short, thin and coarse. Ears are shell-shaped, about 9 cm long, ending in a point. Females are hornless but males may show vestigial horns (scurs).

The udder tends to a spherical shape with a circumference of about 35 cm when full and 28 cm when empty. Teats are arranged laterally, about 2 cm long. These observations on the mammary apparatus are derived from work being carried out at CNPC.

The skin of the Morada Nova has good market acceptance. It is tanned before export.

They are docile animals, quickly adapting to handling practices, homing in the evening. According to Arruda (1978) the Morada Nova breed has a heat tolerance index of about 95%. This is confirmed by the Ittner-Kelly test used by this author in the course of work being carried out by CNPC.

As to direct solar radiation, these animals have a red coat, tending to purplish, whose harmful effects are reduced to a minimum since the coat texture is soft and shiny. In addition to the advantage presented by the coat colour, when exposed to the sun they adopt a posture reducing the incidence of its rays: they always stand, never lying down, when there is little shade.

Management. The breeding of Morada Nova sheep is in no case a priority activity for the farmer for whom it is always a secondary or tertiary activity, usually coming after cattle raising and crop growing.

The natural feed available is the vegetation native to the Northeast, characterized by the presence of trees, bushes and grass, of which the main components are: ‘sabiá’ (Mimosa caesalpinifolia), Rôla bean (Phaseolus lathyroides), ‘juazeiro’ (Zizyphus joazeiro), chicken foot grass (Echinochloa crusgalii), Damascus grass (Aristida setifolia), Ceará mimosa (Anthephora hermaphrodita rose grass (Panicum parvifolium) (Braga, 1976). Artificial conservation of fodder is rarely practised in the Northeast. Pastures for use in the dry season (capineiros) are widely utilized but they are small and do not produce enough to feed the entire flock during periods of shortage. The grazing system is semi-extensive with the sheep returning to the farmstead in the evening. In times of shortage they receive some supplementary feeding in the form of cut grass, millet and bran of grain or cotton. Stall feeding is practically non-existent; it is practised only sporadically, just before livestock shows and only with breeding animals.

Shelter is uncommon and, where it exists, it is only for the animals to spend the night. Shelters are fenced and roofed with ‘sapé’ leaves (any of several gramineous plants used for fodder, paper-making, etc.).

Water is provided by sluice dams, deep wells or ‘cacimbas’ (pools holding run-off water from swamps) on the farms.

Castration is seldom practised by breeders; males are marketed entire. When it is practised it is done at weaning by the manual method of cutting the sperm ducts or by the mechanical pincer method.

Young lambs are raised together with their mothers until weaning and are handled in the same way as adults. Weaning occurs naturally around the age of 3–4 months. Lambs receive supplementary feeding on a few farms but only at critical periods. Animals are neither shorn nor milked.

Diseases (Torres, 1945). Verminous gastro-enteritis of goats and sheep (known in Brazil as ‘seca’): According to Torres (1945), this is a mixed chronic helminthiasis caused by worms of the Trichostrongylidae and Strongylidae families, of the genera Haemonchus, Trichostrongylus, Oesophagostomum, Cooperia, etc. According to the author there is no disease that surpasses ‘seca’ in the damage caused to goats and sheep in the Northeast.

Coccidiosis: Not unusual among goats but less prevalent among sheep, especially in the Sertão, are cases of haemorrhagic enteritis showing a large number of coccidia in the faeces. According to Torres (1945), in the flocks decimated by verminous gastro-enteritis there are many cases in which coccidiosis is the only agent accountable for animal deaths. The same author adds that sheep in Pernambuco are more affected by Eimeria minae (80%) than by Eimeria arloingi (68%). Treatment is the same as that used for verminous gastroenteritis.

Pediculosis (lice): Serious infestations of Bovicola caprae and even more so of B. ovis occur among sheep, even those with short hair (woolless). The skin becomes squamous and scabs may form, resembling mange. The largest number of lice are found along the dorsal ridge and the rump in the places with most wool or hair. A massive infestation can lead to restlessness, loss of appetite, weight loss, exhaustion and finally death. Treatment is by dusting with anti-mange powder.

Infectious pododermitis (foot rot): A rather frequent affliction among sheep long known to Northeast breeders. Its greatest incidence is during the winter months with heavy rain. It is treated with ointment applied to the feet together with antibiotics.

Caseous lymphadenitis (commonly called ‘caroço’ or fruit stone): caused by Corynebacterium ovis.

Tetanus occurs frequently in sheep after castration and tail cutting; it is caused by Clostridium tetani. Treatment consists of prophylactic asepsis and proper protection of wounds caused by castration and docking.

Contagious pustular dermatitis (commonly known as ‘boqueira’, or cracks at corners of mouth), causes a certain amount of mortality among lambs. In its initial phase, tumefaction of the muzzle is observed making it difficult or impossible for the lambs to suck, so that they eventually die. It is caused by a filterable virus or by Actinomyces necrophorus. It is treated with repellent and scar-forming medicines.

Foot-and-mouth disease is not infrequent in the forest area (Mata) and in the littoral. In the Sertão it contributes in winter to the occurrence of foot rot with almost certain fatal results. Control is preventive with systematic inocculation of animals over four years at regular four-month intervals.

Reproduction and breeding. Males are put to service for the first time at the age of 12 to 14 months. Ewes lamb for the first time at the age of 14 to 16 months. Often the age of parturition is too early, due to lack of control of reproduction.

Studies under way by CNPC at one breeding station gave the following results on 21 ewes following a restricted breeding season between 16 February and 17 April 1978: 91.3% births, 4.3% abortions and 4.3% embryonic deaths or nonfertilization, gestation period of 149.0 ± 1.3 days; 28.6% single, 66.7% double and 4.8% triple births giving a birth rate of 176.1%. On the commercial farm run by MAISA (Mossoró Agro-Industria S.A.), where sheep are extremely well fed, a high twinning rate (60 percent) is also obtained. However on the average farm the figure is probably nearer the 20 percent twinning reported from Peri Peri farm, Petrolina, the 35 percent on Iracema farm, Quixadá, and the 25 percent from the Pentecostes farm of the University of Ceará.

Rams are obtained from neighbouring farms, breeders association, agricultural fairs or are bred by the owner. The criteria for selection are phenotypic such as coat, girth, length, weight and age. The selection of ewes is less critical.

Crossing is indiscriminate due to lack of organization of farm holdings, whereby animals can be in touch with neighbouring farms due to lack of fences. Crossing takes place with all the other breeds of the Northeast, such as Bergamasca, Santa Inês and Brazilian Somali (Blackhead Persian).

Happily the policy of CNPC and other research organizations is to pick out the constituent breeds - namely Red Morada Nova, White Morada Nova, Santa Inês and Brazilian Somali, and explore their characteristics and performance. Several purebred selection flocks have now been established for the Morada Nova in the northeast of Brazil. This is a commendable conservation effort to prevent loss of breeds by mongrelization.


Anuário Estatística do Brasil, 1976. Rio de Janeiro, IBGE, No. 37, 816 p. 1976.

Arruda, F.A.V., 1978. Aplicacão do Teste de Dowling em caprinos e ovinos deslanados. CNPCaprinos, EMBRAPA, Sobral-Ce. Mimeo 12 p.

Associação Brasileira de Criadores de Ovinos, 1977. Regulamento do registro genealógico provisório de ovinos no Brasil. Flock-book brasileiro (F.B.B.), Bagé, R.S., 30 p.

Braga, R., 1976. Plantas do Nordeste, especialmente do Ceará. 3rd ed. Fortaleza: Escola Superior de Agricultura de Mossoró. 540 p. (Coleção Mossoroense, 42)

Domingues, O., 1954. Sobre a origem do caprino deslanado do Nordeste. Publicação No. 3 da Seção de Fomento Agrícola do Ceará, Fortaleza-Ce, Brasil. 28 p.

Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (EMBRAPA), 1975. Sistemas de Producão para Caprinos e Ovinos. Circular No. 70, Quixadá-Ce, Brasil. 30 p.

EMBRAPA, 1974. Anteprojeto para implantacão do Centro Nacional de Pesquisa de Caprinos e Ovinos. Brasília, Brasil. 61 p.

Ovinocultura, 1978. Associação Brasileira de Criadores de Ovinos, Bagé-Rs. Ovinocultura, 10, (22), 1978.

Torres, S., 1945. Doenças dos caprinos ovinos no Nordeste Brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: S.I.A. 154. 34 p.


It is now generally accepted that the hair sheep of tropical America came originally from the west coast of Africa and that they were brought along with the slaves. The African origin was recorded for Barbados as early as 1657 (see section 2.1) and is explicit in the name West African used in Venezuela and Africana in Colombia (section 2.7). It is more difficult to determine exactly when they came (except for the date 1624-57 to Barbados) or exactly where they came from.

Lydekker (1912, p. 221) wrote about the Guinea long-legged sheep: “Early in the seventeenth century these sheep were carried by the Portuguese to the northern districts of Brazil, while about the same time, or perhaps still earlier, they were introduced by the Spaniards into the West Indies and Guiana…….

“The West Indian breed, from which the Brazilian is probably inseparable, is stated by Fitzinger to differ from the Guinea type by the constant lack of horns in the rams; but a mounted specimen in the Natural History branch of the British Museum is further distinguished by its small upright ears, as well as by its uniformly foxy coat and the absence of a throat ruff”.

To pinpoint more precisely the exact time and place or places of origin of the American hair sheep it would be necessary to study the original documents concerning the history of the slave trade. A simpler approach is suggested by the differences noted by Fitzinger, and quoted by Lydekker, between the Guinea sheep of West Africa and the West Indian sheep.

The sheep of West Africa are commonly divided into two types (Mason, 1951; Epstein, 1971): a larger long-legged lop-eared type in the north and a smaller type with horizontal ears in the southern zone. They both have a hair coat and a thin tail to the hocks. The males are commonly horned and sometimes also the ewes. The male of the southern type has a mane of coarse hair. The northern type lacks this mane and its height is typically over 70 cm. The southern (or Fouta Djallon) type is shorter than this; in the Guinean forest zone along the coast it is a true dwarf with a withers height of 40–60 cm and a weight of 20–30 kg; in the Savannah zone it is larger - 60–70 cm in height and 30–40 kg in weight.

The American hair sheep described in sections 2.1 to 2.8 correspond in appearance with the Fouta Djallon sheep of West Africa except that they lack horns. In size they fit the Savannah rather than the Forest type. Either they were brought from inland rather than from the coast or else they have undergone an increase in size since importation.

The absence of horns can be easily explained - presumably only polled specimens were chosen for the long voyage in a confined space. Subsequent selection then favoured the hornless type.

In colour the American hair sheep are predominantly white, tan or some combination of tan such as tan-and-white and tan with black belly. Black and black-and-white are very rare and the occasional black animal may in fact be a very dark tan (mahogany). The sheep of the Guinean zone of West Africa, on the other hand, are predominantly white, white with black markings, or black, in that order of priority. This is clear from the descriptions in the report on “Trypanotolerant livestock in West and Central Africa” (FAO/ILCA/UNEP, 1980). In all the countries from Senegal to Nigeria combinations of white and black predominate although occasionally tan or tan-and-white specimens occur.

In the west of Central Africa, on the other hand, tan, and its combinations are common. In Cameroon the frequency of tan is noted below. In Gabon “up to 30 or 40 percent of sheep have a tan back and black belly, particularly in the coastal areas”. “In Congo most of the sheep are black-and-white but sheep with tan backs and black bellies are also common, especially in the coastal areas” (FAO/ILCA/UNEP,1980). In Angola, Lima Pereira (1969) describes two types of thin-tailed hair sheep. The smaller variety has a long tail and short rudimentary or no horns; the male has a throat mane. Coat is pied or self colour. This corresponds to the Fouta Djallon. The larger variety has a shorter tail, with short horns in the male and none in the female. Coat is self colour or pied (black or brown). There is no throat mane. The sheep of Angola corresponding to the Fouta Djallon of West Africa are described by Epstein (1971) as “black, white, or white with large patches of rufous”. The tan with black belly pattern has also been observed in the vicinity of Bonny and Brass on the Niger delta in Nigeria (Gale, 1977).

The evidence from appearance would thus suggest that the hair sheep of America came from one or more of the countries between Nigeria and Angola. They probably came from the savannah zone and were selected from populations with high frequency of the tan colour and its combinations.

In confirmation of this conclusion in respect to Brazil it appears that most of the slaves arriving in north-east Brazil between 1516 (or possibly 1536) and 1850, when the trade was abolished, came from the Congo area in which is included northern Angola and all the countries up to and including Cameroon. A few came from the Guinea coast (De Azevedo, 1970). Lima Pereira (1969) states categorically that the larger variety of sheep in Angola is the ancestor of the Morada Nova; they both lack the mane of the Fouta Djallon.

In the case of the Barbados Blackbelly an origin has to be found both for the special colour pattern and for the high prolificacy. Epstein (1971, p. 52-3) described three varieties of “dwarf” sheep in Cameroon: a black and black-and-white variety and two tan with black belly varieties, one smaller and one larger. Vallerand and Branckaert (1975) speak of only one Fouta Djallon sheep in Cameroon. “The most commonly encountered colours are black, black-pied and, more rarely, white, red and red-pied. In certain regions (East province in particular) tan animals with black belly and feet are seen. This sub-breed is genetically stable and the animals appear larger. This impression is confirmed by their average weight which is over 28 kg in adult females”. The average weight for adult Fouta Djallon females in Cameroon is 25 kg and their height is 59 cm.

This range of colour was confirmed by Mason (1977) who observed 397 sheep in the Centre-South Province; 150 were black, 131 black-and-white, 18 white, 56 tan with black belly (with or without white patches), 6 tan and black and white (harlequin), 2 tan, 32 tan-and-white, 2 tan-and-black (pied) (see Plate 16).

Although the proportion of different colours varied from place to place there was no suggestion of different sub-breeds or varieties as suggested by Epstein (1971) and Vallerand and Branckaert (1975).

In Bakossiland there is an even greater range of colours and patterns. Among 82 sheep observed by Ejedepang-Koge (1978) 34 were black, 15 black-and-white, 10 tan with black belly, 7 white with black belly, 6 tan (with white tailtip and feet), 2 tan with white belly, 8 black with tan belly.

As for fertility, Vallerand and Branckaert (1975) give a twinning rate of 17 percent i.e. a litter size of 1.17 rising from 1.0 at the first lambing to 1.2 for third and later lambings. Vallerand (1977) emphasizes that out of 1,200 recorded lambings, plus numerous enquiries in the field he has never come across the birth of triplets. It appears that in Cameroon, colour and fertility are not correlated and there is no evidence that the high prolificacy of the Barbados Blackbelly came from Cameroon.

Nevertheless it should be pointed out that, in Iceland, Adalsteinsson (1975) has shown that sheep carrying the allele AwI (white or tan) at the Agouti locus have a smaller litter size than those with other alleles at this locus - which includes the gene for blackbelly.

It is interesting to note that blackbelly sheep from Cameroon were imported into Germany (probably during the period of German administration i.e. 1884–1914). Their height is given as 60 cm which accords well with the present height of sheep in southern Cameroon. From Berlin they were distributed to several other zoos. The flock at Munich zoo retains the characteristics of the Cameroon sheep of the tan with blackbelly pattern. Adult females average 26.5 kg in weight and their twinning rate is 20 percent. Males carry horns (as well as some females) and a throat mane (Wünschmann, 1977). About 13 percent of lambs are black which indicates that a high proportion of the blackbelly sheep are heterozygotes.

In general the moderate twinning rate of the Cameroon sheep is repeated in other Fouta Djallon village populations in West Africa. Ginisty (1976) reported a twinning rate of 10 percent among village sheep in Ivory Coast. SEDES (1975) gives the same figure for Togo. Matthewman (1977) gives a litter size of 1.15 for 34 dwarf ewes in one village in Oyo State, southwest Nigeria. At Koldu Research Station in Senegal Gueye (1972) reported a twinning rate of 15.5 percent for Djallonké sheep. In Ivory Coast, Rombaut and Van Vlaenderen (1976) recorded a twinning rate of 27 percent for the dwarf variety of Fouta Djallon.

On the other hand, some cases of higher prolificacy have been reported. However they come from research stations or from rather doubtful verbal reports on small numbers. For dwarf sheep in the University of Ibadan flock (Nigeria), Orji and Steinbach (1977) give an average litter size of 1.46, rising from 1.2 at first lambing to 2.0 at the seventh and later. Triplets never exceeded 10 percent. At the Kumasi College flock in Ghana twinning rate was 39 percent, litter size rising from 1.2 at the ewes' first lambing in the College (age unknown) to 1.7 at their third (Jollans, 1960). At Musaia Research Station, Sierra Leone, multiple births averaged 41 percent over the years 1964–67 (Payne, 1971). Among 40 births in Bakossiland, Cameroon, Ejedepang-Koge (1978) claims an average litter size of 1.47.

It would appear that the potential for multiple births exists in the Fouta Djallon sheep of West Africa but that is not restricted to particular colour types or to special local populations. It seems likely that selection was made for this characteristic independently in Barbados, the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas among sheep selected at the same time for special colours. It is also possible that crossing with European breeds introduced further genes for prolificacy (see section 2.1).

The other components of high reproductive rate - noted in American hair sheep, namely early age at first lambing and short interval between lambings - are also present in the Fouta Djallon sheep of West Africa (see Table 19).

Table 19 Age at first lambing and lambing interval in Fouta Djallon sheep
Ivory Coast
Age at first lambing    
Mean (months)
16.3 11.514
Range (months)
12–24 9.5–1410–22
Lambing interval    
Mean (months)
Range (months)
ReferenceVallerand and Branckaert, 1975Jollans, 1960Rombaut and Van Vlaenderen, 1976Orji and Steinbach, 1977

a) Intervals above 13 months (3.8%) defined as 'temporary sterility' and not included,
b) 75% less than 7 months.


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