Breeds of Sheep in Nigeria & Their Characteristics

In recent times, Nigerians are gradually seeing the gains of livestock farming which has led to an increased interest in this type of farming.

One of the most lucrative types of livestock rearing is the rearing of sheep which has become quite popular in different parts of the country. This type of farming is one where you can make your money in many ways. First, you can earn revenue from selling of the animal for its meat, milk, fur, hide and skin. The meat of the sheep is called mutton.

In Nigeria the male sheep is called the ram and it is quite popular in the country especially during the Islamic festive periods. The period of celebration during the Muslim festive days usually involves the slaughter of ram which is usually eaten by the Muslims during their merrymaking

There are four main breeds of sheep in Nigeria and these breeds include the Balami, Uda, west African Dwarf sheep and Yankasa.

Let’s take a look at these breeds one at a time.

Balami is most predominant in the North eastern part of Nigeria. The Balami is a predominantly white and hairy breed with a pronounced convex heat and a dull depression. It has a dewlap-like fold of skin with white mane. The ear is large and droopy. The tail is long. Horns are prominent in rams and are usually absent in ewes. The Balami is fast growing and attains a weaning weight of 18 kg in 12 weeks. The yearling weight is 35 – 40kg for ewes and 45 – 60kg for rams.

The Balami sheep breed is found mostly in Borno State. It is a very large local sheep breed in Nigeria and it is mostly reared for meat production and just like the Uda sheep breed, it can survive in very hot and dry environment. The characteristics of Balami sheep breed include the following:

  • It has very large and droopy ears with thin and long tails.
  • The males (rams) have horns while the ewes (female sheep) have no horns.
  • The ram weighs between 40kg – 60kg at maturity while the ewes weigh between 30kg – 45kg at maturity.
  • The skin color of the Balami is predominantly white.
  • The shape of the face is distinctively convex.


  • Uda

It is found mostly in the Sahel-Sudan vegetation of Nigeria, which is mostly in the North West geopolitical zone of the country. The Uda is among the four major breeds of sheep found in Nigeria today. This particular sheep breed has the ability to survive in any dry and hot environment. The one thing that is bag about this particular sheep breed in Nigeria is their very low survival rate outside their immediate environment.

It is a large and long-lopped breed with a convex facial profile. The coat colour is entirely brown or black from the forehead anterior to the limber-abdominal girth line and white posterior. The ears are long large and pendulous. The rams have large wide and spiral horns, which are usually absent in the ewes. The breed appears to thrive in hot, dry environment and suffers from poor survival outside this ecological zone; it is particularly adapted to extensive grazing and is renowned for its trekking abilities. Mature weights range from 35 – 45kg for ewes and 45 – 55kg for rams.

The characteristics of the Uda Breed include the following:

  • It has a very distinct skin color pattern. The front part of the sheep is either brown or black while the posterior part is white in color.
  • It has very long and large legs with swinging earlobes.
  • Mature rams of this sheep breed have wide, large and spiral horns while the ewes have no horns.
  • The adult ram of the Uda breed weighs between 35kg – 60kg while their female counterpart weighs between 30kg – 45kg.
  • This sheep breed is adapted to an extensive type of grazing.


  • Yankasa

The Yankasa breed is widely distributed in the northern part of Nigeria. In size it is intermediate between Uda and the West African Dwarf sheep. The coat colour of Yankasa is typically white with black patches around the eyes, ear, muzzle and sometimes the feet. The rams have curved horns and heavy hairy white mane. Some of the ewes have tassels on the neck. Mature weights are 25 – 40 kg for ewes and 35 – 50 kg for rams.

The characteristics of the Yankasa sheep breed include the following:

  • The rams possess white curved horns with heavy hairy white mane around their neck.
  • It has a long and thin tail with moderately long and droopy ears.
  • They are mainly white in color with patches of black around their eyes, ears, muscle, and feet.
  • The adult Yankasa ram weighs between 30kg – 45kg, while the adult ewe (female sheep) weighs between 25kg – 40kg.


  • West African Dwarf Sheep

The West African dwarf sheep is widely distributed in the southern Nigeria, the breed is small compact hardy breed with a wide range of coat colours which may be all white, black or brown or spotted black or brown on a white coat. The breed is considered to be tolerant to Trypanosomiasis. Mature weights are 20 – 25kg for ewes and 25 – 30 kg for rams.

Just like the name implies, the West African dwarf sheep breed is very small in size compared to the Uda and Balami breeds. It is mostly found in the Southern and South-Western part of Nigeria. This particular breed of sheep is very strong and resistant to Trypanosomiasis infection and disease.

The characteristics of the West African Dwarf breed include the following:

  • It comes in different color combinations. Some are all white in color, all black, or even brown while others have a black or brown spot on a white coat.
  • Many of them have wattles around their neck.
  • The rams have horns while the ewes do not have. At full maturity, the rams weigh between 20kg – 30kg while the ewes weigh between 14kg – 25kg.