The Jacob sheep is a rare breed of small, piebald (colored with white spots), multi-horned sheep. Jacobs may have from two to six horns, but most commonly have four. The most common color is black and white.
Generally referred to as an heirloom breed, the Jacob is descended from an ancient Old World breed of sheep, although its exact origins remain unclear. Piebald sheep have been described throughout history, appearing in works of art from the Far East, Middle East, and Mediterranean regions. A piebald breed of sheep probably existed in the Levant, specifically in the area that is now known as Syria, about three thousand years ago. Unlike most other old world breeds, the Jacobs of North America have not undergone extensive cross-breeding and selective breeding; their body habitus resembles that of a goat.
Mainly because they are an old and fairly unaltered breed, this noble and more primitive breed of sheep is very hardy and fairly self-sufficient. They are easy to handle and efficient, allowing more sheep per acre. They are more resistant to disease, foot-related problems and internal parasites; and they rarely need veterinary care. Jacob sheep seldom need help birthing, and the lambs are up and nursing quickly. In fact, our lambs are normally frolicking in the pasture within hours of being born, hopping up in the air and chasing after their mothers. It’s truly amazing.
Jacobs are usually raised for their meat, wool, and hides. At Jacobs Heritage Farm, we raise our Jacob sheep primarily for meat. Jacobs are smaller than more modern breeds, but Jacobs are also more lean with little external fat, with a high yield of meat (with less waste) compared to improved breeds. According to recent analysis, Jacob meat is low in total fat, low in cholesterol and high in quality protein, compared to other red meats. Only rabbit and venison ranked leaner. Jacobs can produce this fine meat while foraging on pasture and minimal grain supplement. Jacobs’ hardiness and disease resistance drastically reduce their need for medications and other chemical additives, especially compared to conventional meat sheep raised in conventional feed lot situations. And the best thing about Jacob meat… it tastes great!!
The medium grade wool from Jacob sheep has a high luster and is prized by hand spinners and weavers. The white and the black wool, which may fade at the tips to a light brown, may be blended to various shades of grays. The colors may also be separated and used in their pure, natural distinctions. Jacob fleece takes dye beautifully and felts well, too. Tanned hides and horn buttons are additional unique products from these sheep.