Jacob sheep: An Ancient Breed

Members of
The Jacob Sheep Conservancy (JSC) and The Jacob Sheep Breeder's Assoc. (JSBA)

  • Hardy

  • Handspinning Fleece

  • Easy to handle

  • Personality

  • Prolific

  • Preserve a Rare breed

Here at Chicory Lane, we are finding Jacobs to be an excellent breed choice. After dealing with commercial wool breeds for a few years, we were looking for a hardy yet interesting breed that could thrive on pasture and excel in mothering instincts. Jacobs have more than met our requirements.

Our sheep are on pasture year around with minimal addition of grain. During the winter, they receive a free-choice orchard grass/alfalfa hay mixture. On this diet, we have been very pleased with healthy, trouble-free births and ewes that have maintained their condition. Since arriving here, we have been grateful for the work the Jacobs have done in cleaning multiflora rose, poison ivy, and other weeds from the neglected fencerows. Both lambs and ewes seem to thrive on the lush limestone pasturelands.

Jacobs are a primitive breed and are said to be resistant to internal parasites and hoof problems. While we have found this to be true, the breed may vary in resistance from sheep to sheep and flock to flock. Shepherds with access to plenty of land may have less problems than those who rely on small pastures. No matter how hardy the breed, good shepherding techniques are always important.

Brief description of Jacobs:

Jacobs have received their name from the biblical story of Jacob's spotted flock (Genesis 30). At first glance, you will notice a spotted (usually black and white) animal with horns. Breed specific dark markings include eye and/or nose patches as well as possibily spots on the legs. Both ewes and rams have horns. Jacobs are one of the few sheep breeds which can develop 2 or even 3 sets of horns. At times these sets can fuse making 4 horns look like 3. The medium to fine Jacob fleece is light in lanolin and is generally open. A good Jacob fleece is a handspinner's delight.

For more detailed information and history on this fascinating breed, please use the links at the top of each of our pages to explore the two Jacob organizations. Each organization has a little bit different information and both are helpful in gaining a full picture of the breed.

Our Breeding Goals:

We try to breed using the guidelines of conservation (genetic diversity) and the balancing out of traits (no trait too extreme). However, we enjoy the diversity of Jacobs and try to encourage this within our flock. Each of our ewes has characteristics that makes them stand out in the crowd or add something special to the flock. Jacobs have distinct personalities and we enjoy spending the time getting to know each one. We take pleasure in them as a flock, and also as individual animals.

We are trying to maintain a flock that is a good representative of some of the Jacob variety out there. While we have a soft spot for the very primitive, deer-like Jacob, we also appreciate the qualities some of the later imports (especially Fieldwood) contribute to the flock. We look for hardy animals that twin and are good mothers. We try to keep a mixture of two and four horned animals and while horns are not our primary focus, we do like pretty, well-formed horns. We are fortunate to have animals with very nice handspinning wool and like the practicality this brings to our flock. It seems to us that priorities in Jacob breeding are constantly redefined as we learn to know the breed better and better. We think this is part of the fun and challenge of raising Jacob sheep.

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Dave & Katrina Oberholtzer Lefever
687 Oxford Ave
Hanover, PA 17331

Last updated 9/21/01