The Namaqua Afrikaner is a hardy, indigenous fat-tail breed. It is a lanky, high-standing sheep with a relatively narrow body, long, lean legs and a fat-tail in which up to 38% of its body fat can be stored.



The Namaqua Afrikaner is one of the indigenous sheep breeds of South Africa. It is believed that the Namaqua Afrikaner  descended from the  fat-tailed sheep kept by the Hottentots. These fat-tailed sheep were kept in the extensive north-western parts of South Africa where extreme temperatures and low and erratic rainfall are considered to be normal.



Two Namaqua Afrikaner flocks of 100 ewes each are maintained by the Department of Agriculture, one at the Carnarvon Experimental Station in the North-western Karoo and the second at the Karakul Experimental Station near Upington in the Northern Cape. These flocks are kept for the purpose of  the preservation of this hardy, indigenous genetic pool and the collection of production and reproduction data on this breed.



There is no official Breeder’s Society for Namaqua Afrikaner sheep in South Africa. Surplus rams and ewes of the Departmental flock at Carnarvon are made available to the public on the yearly official livestock sale held in September at the Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute. Animals have also been made available to museums and other institutions. In this way the Department attempts to make these scarce genetic material available to other people and institutions interested in conserving this ancient breed.



In respect of production and reproduction performance,  Namaqua Afrikaner sheep compares favourably with other South African sheep breeds.



The breed is very hardy and prolific, as is evident from the high reproductive performance recorded under extensive conditions. Namaqua ewes, by mobilising their fat reserves, are able to wean heavy lambs even under severe drought conditions. Namaqua ewes have excellent mothering instincts and will fiercely protect their lambs against intruders, be it human or predator.

Namaqua Afrikaner ewes are early maturing and can be mated successfully at an early age. Ewes can be mated successfully  throughout the year and are ideally suited for accelerated lambing systems. Under a free mating system, where rams were run with the ewes throughout the year, the ewes eventually settled into a 8 - 9 month lambing cycle.

Average growth traits of Namaqua Afrikaner ram and ewe lambs at Carnarvon (1982-1994)




Birth weight (kg)



Weaning weight (kg)



8-month body weight (kg)



12-month body weight (kg)



18-month body weight (kg)



ADG:birth-weaning (g/day)



ADG:weaning-12 months (g/day)




 Reproductive performance of Namaqua Afrikaner ewes at Carnarvon (1982-1994)

Conception rate

86 %

Lambs born / ewe lambing

156 %

Lamb survival rate

91 %

Lambs weaned / ewe mated


Weight of lamb weaned / ewe / year

37.5 kg


Reproductive performance of Namaqua Afrikaner ewes under a free mating system

Age at first lambing

16.5 months

Age at second lambing

25.2 months

Youngest age at first lambing

9.5 months

Body weight at first mating

45.5 kg

Average mating weight

49.1 kg

Average lamb interval

9 months

Shortest recorded lamb interval

6 months



Carcass characteristics

It is a fact that fat-tailed sheep carcasses are labelled at the abattoirs and prices of up to R 3-00 per kg less are paid for fat-tailed carcasses when compared to other non fat-tailed carcasses of  the  same fat grade. In a comparison between carcass characteristics of Dorper and Namaqua Afrikaner carcasses, the results indicated that Namaqua Afrikaner lambs had a higher dressing percentage (51.9 %) than Dorper lambs and their carcasses were longer with more fat in the posterior parts (13.9 mm) and less fat in the anterior parts (0.8 mm). Dorper carcasses had a square conformation, compared to the narrower carcasses of the Namaqua Afrikaner. This may in part explain the consumer resistance against fat-tailed carcasses, as the more expensive cuts are not as attractive as those of Dorper carcasses.



Namaqua Afrikaner skins are classified as glover skins. These skins are highly suitable for manufacturing of top class leather articles such as light weight leather jackets and gloves.

Namaqua Afrikaner skins  were evaluated by the Leather Industries Research Institute for garment leather and wool-on sheep skins. The clothing leathers produced from these skins have a fine nap (suede) and a very pleasant handle.

Wool-on tanned skins are  unattractive and unacceptable for rug skins, slipper material, etc. This is due to the presence of matted wool and hair, which are already present in the raw untanned skin.

Namaqua Afrikaner sheepskin is therefore considered very suitable for processing into leather, but unsuitable for wool-on tannages.



Concepts like hardiness and adaptability are widely used by breed societies when promoting their breeds. Conservationists and breeders of indigenous livestock claimed that the indigenous breeds are exceptionally hardy and adaptable. Hardiness is defined as the ability to economically produce and reproduce under adverse environmental conditions. Evaluation of a breed’s hardiness can therefore only be done under adverse or sub-optimum environments.

The hardiness of Namaqua Afrikaner ewes was illustrated during the drought of 1992 on the Carnarvon Experimental Station when the total rainfall from January 1992 to December 1992 was 98 mm, which was less than half of the average annual rainfall. This resulted in extremely poor grazing conditions. Due to the deteriorating body condition of dual purpose and mutton breed ewes, they received supplementary grain for a five and four month period respectively during late pregnancy and lactation. It was not necessary to supplement the Namaqua ewes, probably due to their ability to mobilise their fat reserves.

The hardiness of  the Namaqua Afrikaner was further emphasized by the fact that in spite of receiving no supplementary feeding, the ewes still outproduced the other breeds in the subsequent lambing season.


Comparison of Namaqua Afrikaner ewes with other breeds under severe drought conditions



Dual purpose breed

Mutton breed

Supplementary feeding cost

R 0.00

R 54.00

R 36.00

Weight of lamb weaned

29.54 kg

33.76 kg

31.00 kg

Income from lambs weaned *

R 122.65

R 155.02

R 150.35

Income above feeding cost

R 122.65

R 101.02

R 114.35

Weight of lamb weaned in the subsequent year

39.9 kg

38.9 kg

32.0 kg


* Mutton prices = R10/kg (Dual purpose and mutton lambs), R8/kg (Namaqua lambs)

For further information contact:

Dr Gretha Snyman (Gretha Snyman )  or    Mr Tino Herselman (Tino Herselman)

                        at   :     Grootfontein ADI

                                    P/Bag X529

                                    Middelburg (EC)


                                    Tel. (+27) 04924-21113

                                    Fax. (+27) 04924-24352


We are interested in establishing some kind of Namaqua Afrikaner breeders’ group. Anybody who has Namaqua Afrikaner sheep are requested to contact Gretha Snyman at Grootfontein.

Article source: Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute -