Sheep with naturally coloured wool are found occasionally in most breeds. In New Zealand, high-quality coloured sheep are often kept for their wool, which has both commercial and handcraft uses. Among the most favoured breeds are Merino, Romney, Corriedale, Polwarth and English Leicester.
Why are some sheep coloured?
Sheep inherit from their parents the genes that make them naturally coloured. There are many possible patterns: all white, several mixed patterns including piebald, and solid colour. The colour can be black, dark or light grey, or dark or light brown. Most coloured sheep become lighter as they age.
There are two main gene series that control the colour of New Zealand sheep: one governs colour pattern and the other governs the actual colour that the sheep will be, in any parts that are not white. Every sheep inherits two genes of each series, one from each parent. Find out more about naturally coloured sheep genetics