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Tuesday, Feb. 7: Stone Zoo Closed  •  Thursday, Feb. 9: Franklin Park Zoo Closed
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American Black Welsh Mountain Sheep

Ovis aries

About the American Black Welsh Mountain Sheep

conservation status: near threatened

Class: Mammalia 
Order: Cetartiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus: Ovis
Species: aries

Black Welsh mountain sheep were originally a species bred for sheep farming in Wales. In 1973, a few were imported to the United States, beginning the American line of the species. They are small- to medium-sized sheep with black, dense, and durable fleece and are generally domestic animals kept as livestock. 

Sheep Facts

Welsh mountain sheep are small- to medium-sized sheep with black, dense, and durable fleece. However, they don't have fleece on their face or legs. Rams (males) have horns that curl around their ears, but ewes (females) do not.

Most of these sheep are relatively short, reaching a height of around 20-30 inches tall at the shoulders. They generally weigh around 100-130 pounds as adults. 

These sheep are herbivores, so their diet mostly consists of grasses, hays and oats. Their diet can vary depending on whether the sheep live out in pastures or are under human care.

They have a gestation period of around 149 to 155 days and usually give birth to one baby at a time, unless they give birth to twins. 

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep are known for being hardy and self-reliant, and they are also great foragers.

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep are mostly found in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as they began as a species bred for sheep farming in Wales. However, three rams and 13 ewes were imported to the United States in 1973, beginning the North American population of the sheep. There are now approximately 1,600 in North America in flocks across the United States and Canada. They are mostly kept in farms or are found on the hills of Wales, but more zoos and conservation organizations are stepping in to provide safe homes for these rare sheep.

Black Welsh mountain sheep are listed as threatened by the Livestock Conservancy. They are often highly sought after because their wool does not need to be dyed and is good for handspinners, although they are mainly farmed for their meat. Organizations such as the Livestock Conservancy and zoos have begun conservation efforts to protect the rare breed from becoming extinct, but more still needs to be done. 

Median Life Expectancy:
The median life expectancy of a domestic sheep is about 10-12 years

Fun Facts:

  • The dark black or reddish black color of their fleece is called "cuchddu"