Jacob Sheep

Jacob Sheep For SaleClick here to view our current list of Jacob sheep for sale.
Meet Our Core FlockClick here to view our core flock of Jacob sheep.

Jacob Sheep At Bear Creek Farm

At Bear Creek Farm our primary "crop" is Jacob Sheep. The Jacob is an old "heritage" breed, which means it retains many of its primitive characteristics and hasn't been altered much from its wilder beginnings. While no one is quite certain how old the breed is, or where Jacob sheep originated, theories abound. However, it is well documented that Jacob sheep (a.k.a piebald or spotted sheep) existed in England about 400 years ago.

From Bear Creek Farm's inception, I'd planned on raising only the rarest of heritage breeds, including sheep. Originally I'd wanted Soay sheep, but was unable to find any for sale at the time. I stumbled into getting some Jacob sheep, having found a "starter" herd of four for sale on Craigslist. Shortly thereafter I discovered a large flock just a few miles from Bear Creek Farm that was downsizing so I bought 13 more. I've never regretted ending up with Jacob sheep as I love this breed, their personalities, and hardiness. And they fit perfectly with the high desert landscape and climate of central Oregon.

Jacob Sheep in America

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting more than 180 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. When Jacob sheep were first listed with ALBC, their status was "Critical", which is the most seriously endangered. Now, through decades of careful conservation by hundreds of shepherds, scientist, and institutions, the breed has recovered somewhat and is now listed as "Threatened". Still, we have a long way to go before there is sufficient genetic diversity to keep this rare breed safe.

Sheep with spots have been known in many cultures throughout history in the Far and Middle East, and Mediterranean. Perhaps the most well known account is the Biblical story of Jacob, who bred spotted sheep, and for whom the sheep are now named.

Jacob sheep were first brought into North America starting in the early-1900s. Most of the 21st century's population descends from these early imports. The breed has become quite popular with small farmers, as well as handspinners and weavers. American shepherds have bred primarily for fleece characteristics; therefore the conformation of American Jacob sheep has remained very much like its ancestors. There is quite a bit of variability from one individual animals to the next, but this is typical of an unimproved, primitive breed. In Britain, they've selected for greater commercial value, especially a larger size and more uniform appearance. Due to these divergent selection criteria, the populations of British and American Jacob sheep flocks have diverged. And, this is why the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has listed the North American Jacob Sheep as a separate population, and breed conservation priority.

The History of Jacob Sheep

Spotted sheep were documented in England in the late 16th century. They were widespread by the mid-1700s. They were popular throughout England as an unusual, ornamental breed, dotting the lands of many wealthy, rural estates. Jacobs were well suited as "park" sheep, because they were picturesque yet required minimal care. Because they weren't being raised for meat or wool very little attention was given to breeding selection. Estate owners cared mostly about hardiness, good spots, and four horns. Therefore, Jacob sheep breed retained its primitive characteristics.

It is widely accepted that the Jacob breed is not native to Britain, but the exact details of its origin have been lost over time. Many myths and hypotheses have been put forth, including those linking it with the Middle East, the Vikings, the Spanish Armada, and of course that of being the descendants of the biblical character, Jacob. It is possible that scientific advancements in DNA research may some day reveal the truth behind the Jacob sheep origin, but for now, we must content ourselves with knowing that it is an old, if not ancient breed, that maintains primitive characteristics.

Characteristics of Jacob Sheep

Size and Confirmation

Jacobs are smallish sheep with ewes weighing 80-120 pounds, and rams 120-180 pounds. They have slim, deer-like confirmations, and are fairly easy to handle because of their light stature.


The Jacob must have horns, and are a polycerate (multi-horned) breed. Most animals have two or four horns. A few have six horns, which generally fuse together in one form or another. Males and females are both horned. The rams typically have horns of impressive size and interesting shapes.


Jacob sheep must have both black and white wool. They have one of the widest variations in fleece types of any breed. The black wool in some sheep has a grayish hue, which is referred to as "lilac", and is a recessive gene. The black and white markings are unique and random to each individual. However, breed specific markings appear as black patches on the muzzle, around the eyes, as a cape over the neck and shoulders, and on the feet, knees, and hocks. Random spots occur throughout the body and on the legs.

The fleece of the Jacob is considered medium, light and open, with a staple length of four to six inches. When sheared, the fleece will weigh three to six pounds. Fleece quality has been a major breeding factor in the recent history of the Jacob breed, making their fleece prized by many fiber artists who enjoy its characteristics and unique color combinations.


As a primitive breed, Jacobs are easy lambers and excellent mothers. Twins are most common, with occasional triplets. Jacob sheep are generally healthier than "developed" breeds. They cope with parasites and extreme weather conditions well so they're a good choice for those who want to use a natural or organic approach on their property. Jacob sheep are known to thrive on less than ideal forage. Because they are browsers, not specifically grazers, they do well on grassy pastures but prefer a diverse diet that includes brush, shrubs, trees, and weeds; not unlike goats.

As a commercial endeavor, raising Jacob sheep can be quite profitable. Jacob sheep are a dual-purpose breed. There is a strong and growing demand for their wool, and wool products. The meat is very healthy, low in fat, high in Omega-3, tender, and very mild in flavor. Each spotted pelt is one-of-a-kind and a great addition to any home decor. The horns, especially the rams' horns, are prized for many uses.

Jacob sheep are the perfect breed for small farms with grass/forage feeding operations. They have calm, sweet personalities, are easy for smaller people to handle, and kids love them. They have strong, primitive behaviors so they are less prone to predation problems, and their light weight and small hooves are beneficial to the land. Jacobs are a smart breed of sheep and can easily be taught to follow a bucket of grain and lead with halter and rope, and they make good pals for young and old alike.

Jacob Sheep For SaleClick here to view our current list of Jacob sheep for sale.