American Dorper Sheep Breeders' Society

FAQs about Dorpers

Q. Where does the name Dorper come from?
A.  The name "DORPER" came from a compilation of the first syllables of the names of the parent breeds. DORSET HORN RAM + PERSIAN EWE = DORPER.

Q.  What is the difference between Dorpers and White Dorpers?
A.  A Dorper has a white body with a black head and was developed from crossing Dorset Horn Rams with Persian Ewes. After the Dorper breed was established in 1942 in South Africa, various breeders continued to focus on breeding white sheep and crossed Dorset Horn x Blackhead Persian and Dorset Horn x Van Rooy to develop a separate breed known as “Dorsian”. In 1964 the two breeds merged into one society to include Dorper and White Dorper sheep.

Q. What is the difference between Purebred and Fullblood?
A. The term "fullblood" means the sheep can trace its genetic background only to sheep originally imported from South Africa. "Purebred" means the sheep has been upgraded from American stock and is at least 93% or 15/16ths Dorper genetics. Upgrading was allowed in order to increase the numbers of Dorper sheep after South Africa experienced an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease and importation was no longer possible. The sheep are shown together in the show ring with no preference for either designation.

Q.  Are all Dorpers polled?
A.  Most Dorpers are without horns but many rams have scurs, and some will have horns, but this should not disqualify a Dorper ram from being stud quality. Experience has shown that horned rams tend to be more masculine and have a stronger libido.

Q. What is the mature weight of a Dorper or White Dorper?
A.  Mature rams typically average between 230-270 pounds. Mature ewes range between 180-210 lbs.

Q. What is the productive life of a Dorper?
A. Under good management, a Dorper ewe should produce lambs for 7 years or more.

Q. Do they have a lot of twins and triplets?
A. This depends on available nutrition and genetics. Under good range conditions, a 150 percent lamb crop is typical and rates more like 180 percent with improved nutrition can be achieved.

Q. Can you breed Dorper ewes any time of year?
A. Yes. Again, available nutrition has a major role in conception rates. Lambing intervals of 8 months, three lamb crops every two years, is a common practice.

Q. At what age can you start breeding ewe lambs?
A. Depending on the time of year, ewe lambs between 6-8 months may cycle, but better conception rates will be achieved at 9-12 months and the later bred ewes will grow out better.

Q. How many ewes can a Dorper ram cover?
A. Ram lambs can frequently cover 20-25 ewes in a 51-day exposure. Yearling rams can usually cover 50 ewes.

Q. Do Dorpers have to be sheared?
A. No. A Dorper should shed its covering each summer. Shedding ability is a trait that should be selected for in your breeding stock. Because Dorpers are a meat breed, they are shown fully shorn to emphasize their meat traits and excellent skin.

Q. Are Dorpers parasite resistant?
A. Studies have shown that Dorpers tend to tolerate a parasite burden better than other breeds. Many other factors influence parasite problems but with proper management techniques, deworming can be minimized even in higher rainfall areas.

Q. How is the taste of Dorper meat?
A. Superb! Dorper lamb does not have the “mutton taste” that causes so many Americans to avoid eating lamb. It is succulent and fine textured. The purpose of the Dorper breed is to produce prime lamb.

Q. What about crossing a Dorper ram with wool-type ewes?
A. Early university trials have shown that the Dorper influence will improve the meat qualities and growth rate of lambs from popular commercial ewe breeds. However, the F1 lambs will have a diminished wool conformation.

Q. What about crossing Dorper Rams with hair-type ewes?
A. The Dorper has been very effective in increasing the growth rate, carcass size and quality of all the typical hair-type breeds such a the Barbados, Katahdin, St. Croix, the Mexican Pelibuey and other breeds that are considered exotic types. Typically, the 75 percent Dorper crosses will exhibit the Dorper coloration and conformation.

Q. Can percentage Dorpers be registered?
A. Yes. The Dorper registry regulations allow for a "breeding-up" program. Ewes and rams are considered purebred at 15/16ths (93%) Dorper.


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