Hampshire Sheep Characteristics

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The Hampshire sheep breed is primarily raised for meat production. Hampshire lambs are fast-growing and at maturity, the Hampshire sheep breed is heavy boned with a lean carcass.

The Hampshire is a typical Downs breed and was developed in the Hampshire county of Great Britain during the eighteenth century by crossing the large Wiltshire with the smaller South Down. Subsequent inbreeding was carried out to allow the Downs type to dominate. It was originally known as the Hampshire South Down.

Hampshire sheep grow rapidly and are a common choice as terminal sires in crossbreeding programs due to their large, lean carcasses and rapid growth rate.

Hampshire Sheep Characteristics

  • The Hampshire is a large, open-faced and active sheep with a mild disposition.
  • Hampshire sheep grow rapidly, mature Ram body weight is around 250 pounds to 350 pounds. and mature Ewe body weight is around 175 pounds to 250 pounds.
  • Hampshire’s are noted for their rapid growth and efficient feed conversion. Lambs should be youthful in appearance.
  • The face should be of good length, dark in color, and practically free of wool from the eyes down. An unbroken wool cap should extend from the neck over the forehead.
  • The ears should be moderate in length, thick, covered with coarse dark brown or black hair and free from wool.
  • Masculinity in the ram and femininity in the ewe are noticeable.
  • Pink skin in a healthy animal is preferred. 
  • The average fiber diameter is 25 to 33 microns. USDA wool grade is 46’s to 58’s.
  • Hampshire sheep fleece weight is around 6 pounds to 10 pounds for a year. Staple length is 2.5 inches to 4 inches.
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  • Some wool is desirable below the knee.
  • High fertility and sex drive in rams. Regardless of the season of the year, the ram breeds a large number of ewes, which produce a high percentage of multiple births.
  • The sire transmits livability and ease of lambing to his offspring.
  • Ewes conceive on the first service regardless of the season of the year.
  • Ewes in satisfactory physical condition should need minimal assistance when lambing. They should have the ability to produce, at least, two strong and active lambs.
  • They must provide an adequate milk supply to ensure maximum growth. The ewe should exhibit a strong desire to protect her offspring.
  • Both rams and ewes are usually polled.
  • Ideally, a ewe should produce 100% or more of her body weight in 120 days.
  • Have two moderate size and shaped teats and tightly attached udders.
  • Though these big, active sheep may look a bit intimidating, raisers describe them as quiet and laid-back, a plus for farmers and exhibitors.

Why Hampshire sheep farming?

The Hampshire Sheep feeds mainly on grass, and studies have shown that this breed assimilates herbs well as they convert the forage they consume into fiber and muscle more than any other breed, indicating that their feed conversion is efficient.

The Hampshire sheep is a dual-purpose breed. Farmers take advantage of the production of their meat, and the demand for wool produced by this species.

Its meat is consumed by several countries for being of good quality, that is why the farmers are careful in their production to be able to import this race to countries like Brazil or Belgium.

They have very steep bones, covered with layers of lean meat. While the wool is used for the production of knitting yarns, flannels, and socks.

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Brief characteristics of Hampshire Sheep

Breed NameHampshire sheep
Other NameHampshire Down Sheep
Country/Place of OriginUnited Kingdom
Breed PurposePrimarily raised for meat production
Breed SizeLarge
Weight
Ram(Male)
120 kg
Weight     Ewe(Female)90 kg
Kiddingone to two lambs
Good for Stall Fedopen grazing  and Stall-fed
Climate ToleranceAll Climates

Hampshire Sheep Facts

  • Hampshire sheep get their name from the county of Hampshire in Southern England where they originated in early 1800.
  • Hampshire sheep were first imported to the United States in 1840 but no records indicate they survived the Civil War.  The first authentic import record was in 1879.
  • The American Hampshire Sheep Association was started in 1889.
  • Hampshire sheep are primarily used for their meat and are able to efficiently convert forage. Their fiber is also used.
  • Hampshire rams are used to sire quality, fast-growing market lambs on ranches and farms around the world.
  • Hampshire sheep are muscular with mild dispositions. Hampshire sheep can be differentiated from other breeds by an unbroken wool cap that should extend from their neck over their forehead.
  • Hampshire mature rams should weigh 300 pounds or more.
  • Hampshire mature ewes should weigh 200 pounds or more in breeding condition.
  • Hampshire ewes typically produce at least 2 strong and active lambs each year. However, it is not uncommon to see triplets and Hampshire breeders sometimes even see quadruplets on rare occasions.
  • Today American Hampshire sheep look very different from their English cousins.  They are much taller and not as woolly.
  • The Hampshire is easy to distinguish from Suffolk sheep by their black legs and faces. Unlike the Suffolk, Hampshire sheep have some wool on their heads and legs and this breed should display a solid topknot of unbroken wool.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Hampshire Sheep used for?

The Hampshire Sheep used for meat, wool and for landscape management. The Hamshire sheep are famous for rapid growth and efficient feed conversion. The rapid growth is an added advantage for the breeders to produce good quality meat in a short span of time.

What color is a Hampshire Sheep?

Hampshire sheep originate from Hampshire county of Great Britain. The color of Hamshire sheep is white with a dark-colored face. The ears are dark brown or black hair and free from wool.

What is the difference between Suffolk and Hampshire sheep?

  • Suffolk sheep have a darker face and legs. The blackface and blacklegs of Suffolk sheep can be easily differentiable from Hamshire.
  • Suffolk has bare legs and head(with no wool), whereas Hamshire has wool on legs and head.
  • Suffolk wool is the medium grade used for producing fleece where Suffolk wool is used for the production of knitting yarns, flannels, and socks.

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