Barbados Blackbelly Hair Sheep
is frequently confusion about the name of this breed. In the United
States and Canada, the animals are referred to as
"Barbados." On their island of origin, that name seems to
be unknown; and the breed is referred to as the "Blackbelly."
Although there can be little doubt that the Barbados Blackbelly has African ancestry, there is compelling evidence that the breed originated and evolved on the Island of Barbados. In 1904, the USDA imported a small flock of these sheep to Bethesda, Maryland. This importation probably formed the basis of the Barbados flocks in the United States today.
The showy horned rams, which we prize so highly in the U.S. today, were probably created by the introduction into the Blackbelly breed of small amounts of other horned breeds. (The rams in the Caribbean are typically, although not always, polled.) Ewes in both locations are usually polled, but occasional individuals grow small scurs.
Blackbellies range in color from light tan to a dark mahogany red, with black breed markings on the face, legs, belly, inguinal region, chin, and chest. Random white markings do occur; but extensive mis-markings challenge breed integrity.
Despite their appearance, Blackbelly carcasses are well-muscled. Their long leg bones and almost total lack of carcass fat create the illusion in the live animal of a lack of development of hind quarters as compared to shorter-legged early-fattening common commercial breeds.
Barbados Blackbellies are very easy care animals, lambing and raising twins (or better!) with ease. The ewes are polyestrous; that is, they readily breed at any time of the year. The lambs are somewhat slower growing than many commercial breeds; but they do not need the volume of high-protein type concentrates used to "finish" such breeds.
Barbados are a breed of hair sheep. Hair sheep are NOT the result of a goat/sheep crossbreeding, as is commonly thought, but are a variety of true domestic sheep. All hair sheep are fully fertile in crosses with wooled breeds and are genetically different from goats.
Growth of a wooly "undercoat" is stimulated when tropical hair sheep are raised in temperate climates. This undercoat, which is of no real value, is shed naturally in spring and/or subsequent to lambing. Despite their tropical origins, the breed is perfectly comfortable in our northern climate. Excessive non-shedding woolliness is a likely indication of crossbreeding and is generally undesirable.
Our Barbados have been progeny tested to insure a degree of breed purity, and are registered with the North American Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Registry.
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