Alberta Sheep Breeders' Association


The American Blackbelly sheep is a hair sheep, originally developed by crossbreeding programs involving primarily Mouflon and Barbados Blackbelly. Resulting hybrids produced poor horn growth that interfered with the animals' faces. Repeated back crossing on the Mouflon improved horn growth to the extent that the hybrid attracted the attention of trophy hunters. Eventually, a strain of exotic looking animals with massive horns evolved and came to be referred to as "Corsican" in reference to the origin of the Mouflon ancestors. The original cross has subsequently been developed into several distinctive breeds of hair sheep. The American Blackbelly is a breed of Corsican descent that is readily identifiable by a very well-defined coat pattern and is registered by the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Association International- BBSAI. Rams generally display spectacular horns, while ewes may have horns or are are polled (hornless). The sheep sport a distinctive hair coat in a range of tan to brown to red, with dramatic black markings.

The American Blackbelly is a thrifty, energetic, small- to medium-sized sheep with a strong flocking instinct. Because of this trait, American Blackbelly sheep are excellent for training cutting horses and herding dogs. It is well adapted to a broad range of environments, breeding goals, and management styles. On the farm, it is desired for its productivity and thriftiness, great prolificacy, and fairly low maintenance. Mature ewes generally have two to three or more lambs in any season, and depending on management, are capable of lambing three times in two years or so. They are very good mothers. Because of their potential reproductive capacity and out-of-season breeding, ewes are suited to an accelerated lambing program.

American Blackbelly sheep will grow more or less winter wool, mostly in response to local winter conditions, which is entirely shed in spring/summer to reveal a coarse, flat hair coat with distinctive, antelope-like markings. It is never docked or sheared.  As American Blackbelly Sheep are hair sheep (have no wool and therefore no lanolin) to taint the flavor of the meat, this ensures that blackbelly lamb never tastes "muttony." Blackbelly lamb is an exceptionally mild-flavored, lean meat said to please even those folks who say they don't like lamb. It tastes very similar to Mountain Sheep.

American Blackbelly