American Dorper Sheep Breeders' Society

Breed Standards


An ideal Dorper and White Dorper sheep should be symmetrical and balanced where the height, width, length and depth of body are proportionate. Dorper and White Dorper sheep should maintain a 60:40 ratio of height to body and legs giving the sheep maximum carcass capacity.


There are three key points to emphasize when evaluating Dorper and White Dorper sheep.

  1. Functional efficiency and structural soundness
  2. Masculinity of rams and femininity of ewes
  3. Muscling

The HEAD should be strong and long with eyes widely spaced and protectively placed. A strong nose with well-shaped mouth and well fitted deep jaws is desirable. Rams should appear masculine and carry secondary development, such as wrinkled skin, on a broad muzzle. Ewes should have well defined feminine features. The size of the ears should be in relation to the head. Discriminate against heavy horns and a dewlap under jaw. Scurs are acceptable. Cull faults include overshot or undershot jaws.

The FOREQUARTER & NECK should be of medium length, well-fleshed, wide, and well-coupled to the forequarter. Shoulders should be firm, broad, and strong. A moderate protrusion of the brisket beyond the shoulders, moderate width, and good depth are ideal. Strong forelegs, straight legs and strong pasterns are vital to longevity. Hooves should be strong and not to widely split. Cull faults include weak pasterns and defaults in leg conformation, bull shoulders that inhibit free and natural front-leg movement and lack of brisket development.

The BARREL is measured from behind the shoulder blade to the front of the hip and should be long, deep, and wide with well-sprung ribs. Sheep should have a long, straight back with a well-developed loin muscle. Ewes should have a defined feminine wedge with front-end refinement and a powerful barrel and rump. Rams should display a reverse wedge with deep chests and power.

The HINDQUARTER should be long and combined with a wide rump that is well-fleshed on the inner and outer twists where muscling extends down to hocks. The hind legs should be straight and strong. Cull faults include unsound feet, long or weak pasterns and defaults in hock structure.

The REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS should be well-developed. Ewes should have a developed udder free of masses with two teats. The scrotum of a ram should not drop below the point of hock and the testicles should be equal size. A split of 1.5cm deep is allowable on scrotum. This is measured from the deepest point to the bottom of the testicles. Any abnormalities of the udders or scrotum, inadequately sized reproductive organs or prolapse of the anus or vagina are considered cull faults.

  • Minimum testicle circumference in a sitting position:
    • 10 months of age 30cm
    • 2 tooth 32cm
    • 4 tooth 33cm
    • 6 tooth and older 34cm

Dorper and White Dorper sheep should be of good size and weight for their age. Mature rams average around 230 pounds and mature ewes average 180-210 pounds. Discriminate against extremely large or extremely large animals under the same environmental conditions.


Fat should be evenly distributed as a thin layer over the carcass. Sheep should be firm and muscular when handled. Too much localization of fat on any part of body is undesirable most especially on the brisket, fore, flank, and the dock.


The color pattern is the only characteristic where there are different standards for Dorpers and White Dorpers. When evaluating color pattern imagine a “cut-off line” that runs from the point of hock along the underside of the animal to the below the knee; dividing the animal into two sections. In ewes the underline goes up the reproductive parts. The cut-off line is the same for Dorpers and White Dorpers.


A white sheep with a black head and neck is the ideal. A limited number of spots on the body and legs and darker dappling on pink skin is acceptable. Dorpers should have complete pigmentation on the anus, reproductive organs, and hooves. Color Faults Include: Totally white sheep or sheep that are predominately black, excessive brown or white hair around eyes or on the face, no pigment on any part where required or blue in one or both eyes.


A white sheep with full pigmentation on the eyelids, under the tail and on reproductive organs is the ideal. Color may appear on the hooves. Color Faults Include: A sheep covered in total with any other color in its covering other than white, no pigment on any part where required or blue in one or both eyes.


Dorpers and White Dorpers should have a short, loose, light mixture of hair and wool on their body with a natural clean underline. The head should be covered in short clean hair. Sheep may naturally shed all their wool or have wool covering remain on their sides, hindquarters, and neck. Wool on underlines and belly is undesirable. Covering faults include sheep that have course hair, long and dense wool, or a coarse hairy mane.


Type is determined by the degree the sheep conforms to the Breed Standards based on the Pointing System. The general impression must be of good balance, muscling and a vigorous appearance. Masculinity in the ram and femininity in the ewe is important.

Pointing System:

To distinguish the degree of excellence with a description and score by points on visual appearance and performance.
These values must be a true reflection of the animal.
Very good: 5
Above average: 4
Average: 3
Poor or below average: 2
Very poor with cull points: 1

The following definitions will apply when using the Breed Standards:

      • Discriminate according to degree: This means that the bigger the deviation from the ideal, the lower the score will be. (i.e. indication of colour around the eyes can score at best a P3. Moderate colour will be downgraded to P2 and extreme colouring around the eyes extending onto the face a P1).
      • Undesirable: When analysed it can score at most a P2 and when extreme a P1 (i.e. brown on the face can be at most a P2 and too much a P1).
      • Cull or faulty: This is when functional efficiency comes into play under conformation or an extreme under other sections of the Breed Standards.

This information is sourced from Dorpers Into The New Century by Dolf Lategan, an official publication of the South African Dorper Breeders’ Society. Manuals are available in English and Spanish may be purchased from the American Dorper Sheep Breeders Society.


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