Suffolk sheep

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7 month old Suffolk Ram Lamb.JPG
A seven-month-old ram lamb
Conservation statusFAO (2007): not at risk[1]:148
Country of originUnited Kingdom
StandardSuffolk Sheep Society
  • Male:
    125 kg[2]
  • Female:
    88 kg[2]
  • Male:
    80 cm[2]
  • Female:
    74 cm[2]
Skin colourpink[3]
Wool colourwhite
Face colourblack
Horn statuspolled

The Suffolk is a British breed of domestic sheep. It originated in the late eighteenth century in the area of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, as a result of cross-breeding when Norfolk Horn ewes were put to improved Southdown rams. It is a polled, black-faced breed, and is raised primarily for its meat. It has been exported to many countries, and is among the most numerous breeds of sheep worldwide.[4]:923


Suffolks at a U.S. fair: Suffolks from show lines look markedly different from traditional production-type animals

The Suffolk originated in the area surrounding Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk in the late eighteenth century, as a result of cross-breeding when Norfolk Horn ewes were put to improved Southdown rams.[4]:923 They were at first known as Blackfaces or Southdown-Norfolks;[5] the first use of the name "Suffolk" for these sheep dates to 1797. In 1810 it was recognised as distinct breed, but was not known by the present name until 1859.[4]:923 A breed society, the English Suffolk Society, was formed in 1886; a flock-book published in the following year recorded some 15,000 ewes.[4]:923 By the end of the nineteenth century the Suffolk had displaced the Oxford Down as the principal terminal sire used on cross-bred ewes in Scotland. By the 1980s breed numbers in the United Kingdom had risen to some 500,000 head, but later fell.[4]:923

The Suffolk has been exported to many countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and the United States, and has become one of the most numerous sheep breeds in the world.[4]:923 It was introduced to the USA in 1888 by one G.B. Streeter of Chazy, New York.[6] A large and long-legged sub-type has developed there; it is fast-growing, but the carcase is of lower quality.[4]:923


The Suffolks are a common breed of domestic sheep. They are polled, and have black open faces along with black legs and white-woolled bodies. Suffolks are considered a large breed of sheep, their size and colouring originates from their Southdown heritage. Their large frame and muscular bodies make them an ideal breed for meat production, however; they are also good for wool production as well. They are hardy sheep, a trait originating from their Norfolk Horn heritage.

Suffolk rams are commonly used as a terminal sire on cross-bred ewes due to their ability to produce off-spring with excellent growth and carcass traits.[7]

Spider lamb syndrome is most common in the Suffolk breed.[8]


  1. ^ Barbara Rischkowsky, D. Pilling (eds.) (2007). List of breeds documented in the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources, annex to The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9789251057629. Accessed January 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Breed data sheet: Suffolk / United Kingdom (Sheep). Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed May 2019.
  3. ^ Suffolk Breed Points. Suffolk Sheep Society. Accessed May 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Valerie Porter, Lawrence Alderson, Stephen J.G. Hall, D. Phillip Sponenberg (2016). Mason's World Encyclopedia of Livestock Breeds and Breeding (sixth edition). Wallingford: CABI. ISBN 9781780647944.
  5. ^ Breed Information: History. Suffolk Sheep Society. Accessed May 2019.
  6. ^ History of the Suffolk. United Suffolk Sheep Association. Archived 9 February 2006.
  7. ^ "Suffolk Sheep | Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers Limited". Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  8. ^ Congenital and Inherited Anomalies of the Musculoskeletal System in Sheep: Spider lamb syndrome, at the Merck Veterinary Manual; published December 2013; retrieved 28 December 2013

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