Last update: March 30, 2012 10:24:38 AM E-mail Print


Geographic Distribution of Dorper Sheep after 26 years



Agricultural Research Institute of the Karoo Region



Since the inception of the Dorper as a recognised breed in 1950, it has shown an unprecedented growth in numbers as a small stock breed in South Africa. This expansion in numbers accentuates interalia the fact that the apparent need to provide a fertile and productive mutton breed for the extensive and arid grazing regions has been met.

An interesting and significant question to pose is:

To enable us to answer this question it is necessary to turn to the Agricultural Census of 1963/64 and 1976 (Department of Statistics 1963/64 and 1976) in order to trace the expansion which has taken place.

Figures 1 and 2 have been drawn up from these statistics for Dorpers and they indicate the distribution density of the sheep. From Figure 1 it is clear that the nucleus distribution (densest concentration) of Dorpers (1 Dorper per 3,2 to 6,4 ha) is in the districts of Hopetown, Herbert, Jacobsdal, Petrusburg and Hay (Roux, 1980).



The secondary distribution (1 Dorper per 6,4 to 12,8 ha) includes districts like Koffiefontein, Fauresmith, Jagersfontein, Boshof, Prieska, Kimberley, Warrenton and Barkly West. Roux (1980) came to the conclusion that the latter two localities were included largely because of irrigation farming practices. The distribution in the Albany district is basically due to the extensive development of the Valley Bushveld which, because of its type of vegetation, is to a large extent limiting to woolled sheep.

The local concentration of Dorpers on the Rand can largely be ascribed to the running of mutton sheep on plots.

From a comparison of Fig 1 and Fig 2, it is possible to follow the expansion pattern of Dorpers from 1963/64 to 1976. It is evident that the nucleus distribution now also includes districts like Postmasburg, Prieska, Kimberley, Koffiefontein, Fauresmith and Jagersfontein.

It is interesting to note that some of these districts which appeared in the secondary grouping in 1963/64, have now shifted to the nucleus distribution group.

The secondary distribution in 1976 now includes districts such as Gordonia, Kenhardt, Carnarvon, Britstown, Philipstown, Philippolis, Bethulie, Venterstad, Albert, Aliwal North, Bloemfontein, Albany, Kirkwood, Uitenhage, Steytlerville, Jansenville, Oudtshoorn, Ladysmith, Montague, Van Rhynsdorp and Vredendal.

The great expansion of Dorpers in the Valley Bushveld of Albany is striking as is the greater concentration in the Ladysmith area. In 1963/64 there were virtually no Dorpers in the Van Rhynsdorp, Vredendal area and in 1976 it shifted to a secondary distribution classification.

The association of the Dorper with all the above-mentioned districts is not accidental, but arises from its ability to adapt to varying veld types. These veld types are all arid to dry, with grass, karoo bush species, shrubs and low bushes as covering.

In Table 1 is shown the total number of Dorpers in the R.S.A.  and the proportional distribution in the various Provinces for 1963/64 and 1976.



  1963/64 1976
Total in R.S.A. 2658679 5 189634
Cape Province 74,8% 77,9%
Free State 17,2% 15,6%
Transvaal 7,3% 5,5%
Natal 0,6% 0,9%


Table 1 however only confirms what is shown in Fig 2, but it is remarkable that only the Cape Province shows a rise in percentage.

In order to answer the second question, namely, what is the expansion potential of the Dorper in relation to other non-woolled sheep, we must again refer to the statistics.

In 1963/64 Dorpers represented only 47 ,7% of all non-woolled sheep while in 1976 they represent 82,1 % of the total number of non-woolled sheep in the R.S.A. The view can therefore be expressed that the Dorper has replaced non-woolled sheep at a rapid rate. Measured against the number of non-woolled sheep which can still be replaced, the Dorper has come close to saturation point. Any further expansion of Dorper numbers depends solely on the remaining number of non-woolled sheep as well as a possible replacement of woolled sheep in certain arid regions.



ROUX P.W. 1980. Geographic Distribution of the Dorper Sheep. Dorper Brochure. Fifth Edition. White & Boughton, Cradock.



Dorper 6