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Suffolk sheep facts for kids

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7 month old Suffolk Ram Lamb.JPG
A seven-month-old ram lamb
Conservation status FAO (2007): not at risk
Country of origin United Kingdom
Distribution world-wide
Standard Suffolk Sheep Society
Use meat
  • Male:
    125 kg
  • Female:
    88 kg
  • Male:
    80 cm
  • Female:
    74 cm
Skin colour pink
Wool colour white
Face colour black
Horn status polled

The Suffolk is a British breed of domestic sheep. It originated in the late eighteenth century in the area of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, as a result of cross-breeding when Norfolk Horn ewes were put to improved Southdown rams. It is a polled, black-faced breed, and is raised primarily for its meat. It has been exported to many countries, and is among the most numerous breeds of sheep worldwide.


Suffolk sheep at county fair
Suffolks at a U.S. fair: Suffolks from show lines look markedly different from traditional production-type animals

The Suffolk originated in the area surrounding Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk in the late eighteenth century, as a result of cross-breeding when Norfolk Horn ewes were put to improved Southdown rams. They were at first known as Blackfaces or Southdown-Norfolks; the first use of the name "Suffolk" for these sheep dates to 1797. In 1810 it was recognised as distinct breed, but was not known by the present name until 1859. A breed society, the English Suffolk Society, was formed in 1886; a flock-book published in the following year recorded some 15,000 ewes. By the end of the nineteenth century the Suffolk had displaced the Oxford Down as the principal terminal sire used on cross-bred ewes in Scotland. By the 1980s breed numbers in the United Kingdom had risen to some 500,000 head, but later fell.

The Suffolk has been exported to many countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and the United States, and has become one of the most numerous sheep breeds in the world. It was introduced to the USA in 1888 by one G.B. Streeter of Chazy, New York. A large and long-legged sub-type has developed there; it is fast-growing, but the carcase is of lower quality.


The Suffolks are a common breed of domestic sheep. They are polled, and have black open faces along with black legs and white-woolled bodies. Suffolks are considered a large breed of sheep, their size and colouring originates from their Southdown heritage. Their large frame and muscular bodies make them an ideal breed for meat production, however; they are also good for wool production as well. They are hardy sheep, a trait originating from their Norfolk Horn heritage.

Suffolk rams are commonly used as a terminal sire on cross-bred ewes due to their ability to produce off-spring with excellent growth and carcass traits.

Spider lamb syndrome is most common in the Suffolk breed.

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