Last update: August 18, 2011 08:59:49 AM E-mail Print


Geographic Distribution of Dorper Sheep in the Republic


Dr. P.G. Marais & Amanda Schoeman:

Agricultural Research Institute of the Karoo Region, Middelburg, C.P.


The Dorper has shown unparalleled growth as a small stock breed in South Africa since it was recognised as a breed in 1950. This increase in numbers stresses the fact that the very real need for a fertile and productive mutton breed for the extensive and arid grazing areas, was met.

An interesting and pertinent question is: What was the expansion pattern of the Dorper in the Republic over the past number of years?

To enable us to answer this question it is necessary to refer to the Agricultural Census of 1963/64 and 1976 (Department of Statistics 1963/64 and 1976) as well as to the Stock Numbers of March 1987 (Department of Agricultural and Water Provision) to determine the pattern of the expansion which occurred.

Figures 1 and 2 have been compiled from these statistics for Dorpers and they illustrate the distribution density of sheep. From Figure 1 it is clear that the nucleus distribution (largest concentration) of Dorpers (1 Dorper per 3,2 to 6,4 ha) was 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) also came to the conclusion that the last mentioned two localities can largely be ascribed to the irrigation farming practised there. The distribution in the Albany district is basically due to the extensive development of the Valley Bushveld which sets limits for farming with wool led sheep, due to the type of vegetation.

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

By comparing Figure 1 and Figure 2 it is possible to follow the distribution pattern of Dorpers from 1963/64 to 1976. According to this, it is obvious that the nucleus distribution in 1976 also included districts like Postmasburg, Prieska, Kimberley, Koffiefontein, Fauresmith and Jagersfontein.


It is interesting that some of these districts which were in the secondary group in 1963/64, had shifted to the nucleus distribution group.

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

The large expansion of Dorpers in the Valley Bushveld of Albany is striking as well as 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 had changed to a secondary distribution classification.

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

If Figures2and 3arecompared, it is striking that areas which were classed in Fig. 2 as secondary and tertiary areas, have moved to the nucleus distribution group.

In Table 1 the total amount of Dorpers in the R.S.A. and the proportional distribution in the various Provinces is given for 1963/64, 1976 and 1987.


In Table 1 it an be noted that the Cape Province was the only province which showed an increase in percentage from 1963/64 to 1976. According to the percentages in 1987 a radical change took place in the distribution of Dorpers. The Free State showed a large increase, while the Cape Province showed a decrease. This shift is probably largely due to the fact that the area which had the largest concentration of Dorpers in 1976 was severely drought stricken for 10 years up to and including 1987.

In total the Dorper numbers increased in the Republic from 1963/64 to 1976 by 48,7% and from 1976 to 1987 by 21,8%.



ROUX P.W. 1980 Geographic Distribution of Dorper Sheep.

Dorper Brochure, Sixth Edition. White & Boughton, Cradock.



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