9 Wooly Facts About Darling Babydoll Sheep

Babydoll sheep are tiny and full of personality.

white babydoll sheep
People often keep babydoll sheep for pets on small farms.

Beacon House Farm

With their sweet teddy bear faces and wooly charm, babydoll sheep attract people looking for gentle pets or adorable lawnmowers. They're tiny and chock full of personality. Some people raise them for their cashmere-like fleece, while others just like these friendly sheep around as backyard lawnmowers, 4-H projects for kids, or family pets. Originally bred in the U.K, babydoll sheep now can be found throughout the U.S. and Canada. Here's the scoop on these little sheep with the smiling faces.

1. Babydoll Sheep Come From England

Officially known as babydoll Southdown sheep, members of this ancient breed are the diminutive version of the Southdown breed of sheep, which originated in the South "Downs" of Sussex County, England. There, they were known for their hardiness, fine fleece, and their tender meat. The breed made its way to the United States around 1803, according to the Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep Registry.

2. They Have Distinct Personalities

babydoll sheep with twin lambs
Ewes often give birth to twins and sometimes even triplets, all with distinct personalities. Beacon House Farm

People often choose to keep babydoll sheep because of their gentle, yet distinctive personalities, says Rosemary Weathers Burnham, who breeds the tiny sheep at her Beacon House Farm in Union, Kentucky.

"They are very gentle and they aren’t real big so they're easy to manage," Burnham tells Treehugger. "I love seeing the different personalities."

She mentions Nona, who is so outgoing she will come right up to you and would happily live in the house with you. Then there's Harmony, the rather bossy leader of the flock, who's always out in front of everyone else. And Iris, who is sweet and shy and such a good mother.

3. Babydoll Sheep are Either White or Black

black babydoll sheep with pink ribbon
Babydoll sheep are most often white, but can also be black. Beacon House Farm

Babydoll sheep are most often white or off-white, with their muzzle and legs ranging from very light tan to brown to cinnamon to gray, according to the North American Babydoll Southdown Sheep Association and Registry (NABSSAR). Babydoll sheep also can be black, which is a recessive gene. Black sheep always have black legs and muzzles.

As they are out in the sun a lot, the wool on black sheep lightens and can look reddish brown brown. As they age, their coats can turn a kind of grayish-brown and they can get gray hairs in their muzzle.

4. Their Fleece is Like Cashmere

White babydoll sheep in snowy pasture with red bucket
Fiber artists often enjoy working with the babydoll fleece, which is said to be along the lines of cashmere. Beacon House Farm

Babydoll fleece, which must be sheared each spring, is springy and soft. At about 2 to 3 inches long, it is relatively short. In textile terms, it runs in the 19 to 22 micron range, which means it's very similar to cashmere and can be worn next to the skin without being itchy and uncomfortable. It also blends well with other fibers.

Many of the black babydoll sheep have coarser fleece than the white or off-white sheep. The lighter fleece typically can be more valuable because it can be dyed any color, according to NABSSAR.

5. Babydoll Sheep are Small

white babydoll ewe with lamb
Babydoll sheep are small and easy to handle. Beacon House Farm

Babydolls are only about 18 to 24 inches tall when they're fully grown. They can weigh between 60 and 125 pounds. Because of their small size, they're easy to handle and popular as pets for children and for 4-H projects. Babydoll sheep can be easily contained with small, low fences. They won't try to jump them or barrel through them. The larger danger isn't that these lovely creatures will escape; it's that predators can get to them. That's why it's important to bring them into a barn or corral them into a predator-proof area at night.

6. They are Naturally Polled

white babydoll lamb
Babydoll sheep do not have horns. Beacon House Farm

Both babydoll ewes and rams are naturally polled, meaning they're born without horns. These lovers-not-fighters are non-aggressive by nature so they get along well with other docile breeds of livestock.They can have a calm, soothing effect on other animals, according to the Olde English Babydoll Soutdown Sheep Registry.

Babydolls can be wary in new situations and might need some time to warm up to strangers. Breeders say the sheep are curious and trusting with the people they know and are especially fond of routine.

7. They are Easy Keepers

babydoll sheep at Beacon House Farm
Babydoll sheep graze at Beacon House Farm in Union, Kentucky. Beacon House Farm

Babydolls don't need much acreage. They are known as "easy keepers" because of their small size and efficient metabolism. They just need some good grass for grazing and sometimes like a little grain..

"They're not hard on the land. The only thing they do is eat the grass," says Burnham.

You need a shelter where they can cool off in the summer and get out of the rain. "But in general they like to be outdoors because they always have that wool sweater on. They just don't like to get wet."

8. They are Organic Weeders

Babydoll sheep graze at Granton Vineyard in southern Tasmania
Babydoll sheep trim grass and weeds at Granton Vineyard in southern Tasmania. Stefano Lubiana/Flickr

Babydoll sheep are popular as "organic weeders." They are often used in vineyards as well as orchards because they don't hurt the tree trunks or shrubs and they fertilize the soil while they graze. In vineyards and orchards, they're usually too short to reach the grapes or fruit on the tree, so they keep their eating to unwanted weeds and overgrowth. Some vineyards also find that, "the little sheep in the fields created a tremendous draw for workers and visitors and resulted in goodwill for the winery," according to the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

9. Babydoll Sheep are Good Mothers

White babydoll sheep with lambs.
Babydoll sheep like to stay together. Beacon House Farm

Babydoll ewes are good mothers, according to breeders, and often have twins and occasionally even triplets. They like to stay together and don't typically wander off and get lost. They thrive on companionship and like to stick together. You should never have just a single babydoll sheep.

"The special thing about these sheep is they have a strong flocking instinct. They tend to stick together," says Burnham. "Every night they come back to the paddock and spend the night. They have this instinctive thing to come back home every night."