Although there are claims that
the Damara breed of sheep originated in Egypt as long ago as 3000 BC, its
recognition as a named breed is more realistically dated to the early twentieth
century. In 1904, this long-legged sheep breed was seen by German explorers in
the northern region of Namibia, which was then called Gross Damaland - hence it
became known as the Damara Sheep. At one time, local farmers who used copper in
their traditional attire, exchanged Damara Sheep for copper wire and for horses.
In 1954, many Damara Sheep were
confiscated from commercial farmers who were smuggling sheep through the Veterinary Cordon Fence, which was erected to separate disease-free areas of
southern Namibia from those of the north. The confiscated Damara Sheep were
resettled at the Omatjenne Research Station, near Otjiwarongo, Namibia.
Over the next few decades
selective breeding improved the meat-producing qualities of the already
well-adapted indigenous Damara without losing its main characteristics and
adaptive traits for bushveldt savannah grazing.
The breed’s ability to survive
in a harsh environment and under poor nutritional conditions made it suitable
for the communal areas of Namibia where extreme conditions are the norm rather
than the exception. It is a so-called “no care” breed, with short, shiny,
multi-coloured hairy coat, and has a fat tail which gradually tapers down to a
thin end. The ram has strong open spiral horns but the ewe is usually polled.
Up to 60% of the Damara’s diet can consist of browsed vegetation, and it can
thus live in areas usually more suited to goats. They have a high resistance to
both internal and external parasites. The average weight of an adult ram is 80
kilograms, an adult ewe 50 kilograms, and a new-born lamb 4 kilograms.
A Breeders’ Association was
established at the Omatjenne Research Station in 1986, and many animals were
subsequently exported to South Africa, which set up its own Damara Sheep
Breeders’ Society in 1992. (See also The Damara of Southern Africa.) The breed has also been established in
Australia and there are a few of them in New Zealand. Some have been used to
cross with white-headed Dorpers to produce Meatmaster sheep.
Content and Photo
Source: New Zealand Rare Breeds (www.rarebreeds.co.nz/)