Half-brown, half-white lamb produced from genetic quirk in crossbreeding – ABC Rural
When hobby farmer Linda Gleeson saw the unusual colourings of her ewe’s new lamb, she simply thought it was “cute”.
But after showing friends who grew up on rural properties, she was shocked to find that the half-white and half-brown colouring was quite unique.
“I went out to dinner with some friends who were both sheep farmers when they were kids. And I showed them the picture and one got really excited and sent it away to all her brothers who are still sheep farmers on big farms around NSW,” she said.
It’s all in the genes
The lamb is a crossbreed; her mother is a dorper and her father is a wiltipoll.
While it was not uncommon for dorpers to have some darker markings, it was usually only around the head.
“I certainly have never seen one that is half-half,” sheep and wool lecturer at the University of New England, Emma Doyle, said.
“They normally would have a black face and a white body, maybe some dark spotting somewhere else.”
Ms Doyle said a recessive gene caused the change in colour.
Home on the farm
The arrival of such an unusual lamb was almost lost on the Gleeson family, but has provided some extra interest for their children Connor and Lilly.
“We’ve only had sheep for about a year and a half,” Lilly said.
“This sort of colouration, we haven’t had it in any of our sheep yet, so she’s very unusual and unique.”
Dorpers were generally bred for meat production and were only introduced to Australia from South Africa in 1996.
They are a favourite of hobby farmers for their shedding ability, meaning they don’t require shearing or crutching, so they do not get fly strike.
According to the Dorper Sheep Society of Australia, the dorper’s darker colouring also means their natural pigmentation protects them from skin cancers seen in many other breeds in Australia.