What is the Drents heath sheep?

The Drentse heath sheep is the oldest sheep breed in Western Europe. The sheep breed has been found in Drenthe since 4000 BC. The sheep were probably brought to the Netherlands by the French at that time. The main product of these sheep was manure, which was mainly used in arable farming. In addition to manure, this sheep provides wool, leather and meat. The sheepskin of the Drentse heath sheep comes in various colors such as white, cream, brown and black.

What are characteristics of the Drents heath sheep?

The Drents heath sheep can be divided into two types, the old and the new. The new type of Drents heath sheep was created by a cross with the Schoonebeker heath sheep. The new type can be recognized by its smaller horns and curved nose. The old and rare type can be recognized by the straight profile line of its nose. Today, most Drentse heath sheep are of the new type. These animals are nowadays mainly used in the maintenance of nature reserves.

The wool yield of the Drents Heideschaap is about 1 to 2 kilograms per sheep. The wool of the sheep consists of three types of fibers, namely: a fine undercoat, the long-haired fiber and the thick hollow fiber. This composition of the wool keeps the sheep nice and warm.

A Drents heath sheep ram is always horned. The horns grow in a spiral shape and are larger than in a ewe. The horns should have a graceful twist so that the ears are free. A ewe may be hornless or have small horns. The horns of a ewe are pointed backwards, in a ewe the horns do not grow in a spiral shape as in a ram.

When properly fed, a ewe can reach a weight of about 50 kilograms and have a withers height of ± 48cm. A ram can reach a weight of about 80 kilograms and can have a shoulder height of ± 53cm. Lambing is easy for them and a ewe will produce about one lamb per litter.

The history of the Drentshe Sheep

The Drents heath sheep is one of the oldest sheep breeds in Western Europe. The sheep brought wool, leather and meat, among other things, but was used most for its manure. The sheep's manure was used to make poor soil more fertile. With the introduction of artificial fertilizer, the task of the Drenthe sheep became redundant because the sheep was otherwise not very productive. Due to this change, the economic importance of this breed of sheep became less and less. The number of sheep was therefore decreasing at an ever-increasing rate. Around the year 1948 a new flock was founded to preserve the breed. In 1985 a special breeders association was established to preserve the Drents Heideschaap. At this moment there are about 3000 registered animals and the breed belongs to the rare pets.