United Horned Hair Sheep Association, Inc.

New Mexico Dahl Sheep
The United Horned Hair Sheep Association embraces generally accepted hair sheep
breeding goals. Specific standards are required for registration and a complete list of
standards required for registration is posted below.

Traits discriminated against or traits which are suggested to be used minimally in
breeding the sheep are a fault but not necessarily a disqualification and animals
exhibiting faults in one area or another may still be able to be registered.
An animal displaying a trait that is listed as a disqualification is NOT able to be
registered or recorded.

Sheep which do not exhibit the requirements for registrations are considered to be
disqualified and not eligible for registration.

The General Character and Appearance of the Sheep represented by the New Mexico
Dahl Sheep Foundation should be one of a noble form. The sheep should look
athletic with a lean, sleek but muscular build. These sheep are heritage breed with the
advantages of multiple marketability.  
 (Click Here for more information about multiple

Should be well balanced and proportional to the body and held high when the sheep
is alerted. Ewes should have a more feminine face and features than the rams.

The back of the head of mature rams may display a slight to extreme rounded hump
behind the horn base. This is part of the rams’ physical frame which helps cushion the
brain during any sparring.

Rams generally present a straight profile when viewed from the side profile) while
some may display a slightly Roman nose profile. Young lambs typically have a straight

Ewes similarly may present a straight profile when viewed from the side profile.

The Nose and Muzzle of Typical NM Dahl sheep is generally white reflecting the
dominant color of the New Mexico Dahl Breed.

The New Mexico Dahl Sheep Breed is considered a hair or shedding sheep. These
sheep actually have two coats: a hair type coat and usually a more wooly undercoat.
The undercoat may resemble a thicker hair to a more wool type look and texture. This
undercoat grows during cool weather and will naturally shed off when warmer weather

In colder climates, some sheep may exhibit a three inch or more full winter undercoat;
however, the undercoat should completely shed off without shearing when warm
weather arrives with the exceptions of lambs and some yearlings.

The ability of the sheep to grow and shed the undercoat, may lead to only partial
shedding for a time in various climates. A complete shedding generally occurs by May,
June or early July. The exact time for a complete and natural shedding depends on
the climate. Lambs and some yearlings may not shed totally till the next year.

The complete and natural shedding ability is important in maintaining ease of care
and a lack of such shedding may be indicative of parent breeds in the background
that are not desirable or of having wool parent breeds in the recent background.

Typical: "Typical" shall be deemed as animals displaying all or mostly white (95% or
more) and will be registered under the "Typical" category for coat coloration.

Typical New Mexico Dahl Sheep, both rams and ewes, are predominately all-white to
mostly white, with a very small amount of coloration found on the animal. To be
registered as "Typical," slight visible reddish or fawn spots or hairs within the coat
need not disqualify the animal.

Oñate Sheep: Animals which have less than full (95%) white coloration will be
registered in the category of "Oñate" New Mexico Dahl sheep.

New Mexico Dahl "Oñate" Sheep may have solid or multiple colors and patterns. They
can be bi-colored (two colors), tri-colored (three colors), and quad-colored (4 colors).

Average height of the New Mexico Dahl Sheep for ewes is 23 - 30 inches (measured
at the Withers) and 24 - 36 inches (measured at the Withers) for rams. There is no
disqualification for animals whose size falls outside of the average range, although
those who record ABOVE average are more desirable for breeding purposes.

The weight of the sheep varies and individual sheep may weigh outside the range.
Ewes may weigh 80 - 180 lbs with an average of 90 - 130 lbs.

Rams generally weigh from 165 - 250 pounds with an average of 200 lbs.  Rams,
though, may attain weights of 300 lbs or more in their 4th or 5th years.

Ears should be parallel to the ground or at slightly higher angles. A very slight angle
below parallel to the ground is noticeable at times; however, the ears should become
parallel or higher when on alert.

While at birth, lambs may display droopy ears, especially those who are part of a
multiple birth; however, the ear(s) should straighten up within a few days. Otherwise,
ears must not droop enough to be considered floppy. Such ears would tend to
indicate cross-breeding in the background of the sheep.

Naturally occurring (not due to injury or other difficulties) droopy ears are a
disqualification for registration.

Ears generally should come to a slight point at the tip and not be completely rounded
in shape. Elf ears (ears with external cartilage which is generally 1/2 inch to 3 inches
in length and exhibiting a more v-shaped ear) and Gopher ears (ears without visible
external cartilage or with less than 1/2 inch) are not acceptable. SEE ILLUSTRATIONS

Natural ears may vary in length but are generally in the range of 3 - 4 inches.
Abbreviations used within the United Horned Hair Sheep Association, Inc., are as
such: E indicating Elf Ears, G indicating Gopher Ears, and N indicating Natural Ears.

Eyes should be bright and alert and must be free from genetic eyelid defects such as

The colors of the eyes vary from deep dark brown, golden brown.

Incisor teeth should meet the dental pad. A severe and distinct space between the
incisor teeth and the dental pad is a disqualification.

Sheep should not have an extreme overbite (parrot mouth) or under-bite (monkey


Neck should continue from the head and gradually lead into the shoulders and be
gracefully held when sheep are alert.

A ewe’s neck will be graceful and proportional in size based on the ewe‘s overall frame.

A ram’s neck will be thicker and more muscular than a ewe‘s neck in appearance and
to the touch.

During the fall or cooler weather, rams may display an increase in hair and undercoat
growth around the neck area which will make the neck look much larger.

Mature rams generally display a mane in the winter. Some rams will shed the mane
completely in the summer while others will retain the mane.

A ram’s mane may be varied in length from short to long, some even almost touching
the ground when in full winter coat. Some manes may be much shorter and hang just
a couple of inches below the bottom line of the chest. A ram with no mane at any time
is a fault and is discriminated against (though not a disqualification).

The shoulders should be developed and muscled proportionally to the size of the
sheep. They should flow into the ribs (well laid into the ribs).

The withers (area between the shoulder blades along the top line) may be elevated
with rams exhibiting a more pronounced and higher elevated wither. Some sheep may
have a completely straight top-line with no elevation.

The width of the chest of most NM Dahl Sheep will be moderate to robust with an
athletic look - proportional to the size of the sheep.

The width of the front of the ewes should not be greater than the width of the back of
the sheep to facilitate lambing.

Continuing after a smooth transition from straight or elevated withers, the back should
be strong, level and relatively smooth. The Back may tend in width to look lean, sleek,
and athletic.

The back is proportioned to the height of the sheep and is generally not longer than
the height.

Ribs should be well sprung. Abdomen should allow for multiple births and be
proportional for smaller sized ewes.

The bottom line should not be tucked in at the fore-flank or the rear-flank.

The Legs should be sound and proportioned to size of individual sheep as sheep
represented by UHHSA, Inc., may vary greatly in size. Sheep will have long athletic
legs, usually longer than body height from bottom line to top line.

Rams will generally have thicker legs than ewes.

Legs should have a conformational correct appearance without double-jointedness.
Front legs should not be knock kneed, bowlegged, buck-kneed or calf kneed. Rear
Legs should not be cow hocked, sickle hocked or post legged. Lower Legs on both
front and rear legs should not toe in (angle inward/pigeon toed) or toe out (angle
outward/splayfooted) too much.

Pasterns should be strong and correct.

Good four square (though with narrow bodies of some sheep it is more rectangular)
stance is desired with legs standing nicely in line with the body of the sheep.


Continuing from the back, the rump should exhibit a gradually angled slope to the
dock. Size and muscling of rump are proportional to the size of the overall sheep.

The Thigh should be well developed in proportion to the size of the sheep. Sheep may
display the depth and heavy muscling of some sheep breeds developed purely for
fast gain and high weights (meat) at an early age without compromising other
characteristics of the breed.

The twist is the junction where the insides of the thighs meet. To compare sheep as
far as meat capability, the measurement of the depth of the twist may be taken. To
measure the depth of the twist, one can place hands at the top of the tail and at the
crotch. This measurement assists especially in judging of pure meat sheep breeds
and shows the depth of muscling in this area.

The New Mexico Dahl Sheep tend toward the depth of the twist being moderate to
deep. The twist should be muscled proportional to the size and frame of the individual

A ewe’s udder should be well proportioned and relatively symmetrical and have only
two teats. A ewe with more than two teats is discriminated against. The teats should
be free of obvious defects affecting function.

Both Testicles should be uniform and symmetrical, free of obvious deformities.
Testicles should be well sized and the scrotum itself should also be free of obvious


Tail lengths vary. Shorter tails are preferred. Tails should not be "round" and should
be more "flat".

A tail that is reaching to the hocks is discriminated against. A tail past the hocks is a


Hooves should be well formed and kept free of deformities and disease.

New Mexico Dahl and Oñate Sheep hooves may be white/cream, black, or variegated
(see picture to the left) in color (both colors or variances of each of them); however,
dark colored hooves require less clipping maintenance and are preferable.

Various species of animals use horns for self-defense, cooling the body in hot
weather, and for rival competition over mate selection.

Both rams and ewes must have horns.  Photos showing horns on sheep are required
for registration when one or both parents are not registered. See Photo of a Ewe's
Horns to the Left)

Sheep with more than two horns are disqualified from registration as a New Mexico
Dahl Sheep.  

Please consider another division of the United Horned Hair Sheep Association, Inc., if
your sheep has more than two horns or if your ewe is polled (without horns).

Horns can be of varying shapes except for Mouflon Sheep which consistently display
Heart Shaped horns (Supracervical). Some may be wider than others at the "tips."

In general, wide (horns with plenty of room from the face) corkscrew shaped horns
(Homonymous) are preferred over classic horns that may grow close to the face.

Some flock owners and breeders prefer horns which are a little closer to face (more
heart shaped) or have tight curls while other flock owners prefer horns which have
much wider areas between the face; however, wide-spaced homonymous horns shall
be the standard.


Supracervical Horns (abbreviated SH)
(Heart Shaped)

Homonymous Horns (abbreviated HH)
(spiraling out)

Number of Horns
More than 2 horns - Multi-horned (Polycerate) - is a DISQUALIFICATION from
registration as a New Mexico Dahl Sheep

Actual shape of individual horns
Webbed Horns
Abbreviated SW for Supracervical shape, webbed horns
Abbreviated HW for Homonymous shape, webbed horns
Abbreviated WH for horns which do not show over all shape of horn growth yet but do
show they are webbed

Round/Usual Horns
Horns are more round in circumference.  This is the most common actual horn shape.

Ewes’ horn shapes are currently not considered nor are they factored into the
breeding process. Generally ewes’ horns curve back, flare to the sides or grow
straight up. To indicate Horned Ewes in the registry, HE is the abbreviation used.


A mature sheep’s horn length vary based on actual age, individual sheep (genetics),
areas of the country (environment and weather), nutrition and health. Growth rate
(rate at which the horns grow) is also dependent upon some of the above factors.
Horns generally slow down during late winter/early spring unless fed to overcome the

The average overall growth rate for horns for young rams is an inch per month for the
first two years. Some rams may seem to get a good start with quick growing horns
while others horns grow slower but then catch up as the ram matures.  Ewe’s horns
generally grow at a much slower growth rate.

Mature rams usually display 36 inch length horns to measurements in the 40 – 45 inch

Ideally, New Mexico Dahl rams' horns reach 33 inch of horn length at age 4 years of
age (maturity). This minimum measurement is encouraged for selective breeding to
constantly improve the breed standard. It does not disqualify a ram from registration
to not reach the 33 inch of horn length at age 4, however it is a strongly suggested
guideline for consideration in future breeding endeavors.

Ewes' horns should be a minimum of 6" in length at maturity (2 to 3 years old).
However, ewes that fall short of this goal are not subject to disqualification; this is just
a strongly suggested guideline for consideration in future breeding endeavors.

Some breeders will prefer larger base measurements as the horns grow out from the
bases and with larger base measurements, the belief is, the better future opportunity
for growth exists.

Bases on mature rams generally run eleven to fourteen inches in circumference.
Twelve and thirteen inches in basal circumference (base measurements) for each
horn is exceptional.

New Mexico Dahl Rams’ horns should have, at 2 years old, a minimum of 11" basal
circumference and at age 3 years old, a 12' + basal circumference.  These are good
breeding goals.

The basal circumference (circumference of horn at the base) of ewes’ horns will be
much less than the rams.

While shapes and lengths of the sheep breeds represented by UHHSA, Inc., are
similar, certain breeds prefer certain colors of horns.

For the New Mexico Dahl and Oñate, horns may be white, black/dark, or variegated
(both colors or variances of each, striped horns). As rams age, darker colored and
variegated horns may become more washed out in appearance.


New Mexico Dahl White and Oñate Sheep should not be confused with Alaska Dahl or
Texas Dall Sheep.  They have separate and distinct origins and history.  Alaska Dahl
sheep are wild mountain sheep native to Alaska and domestic Texas Dall sheep were
developed in the mid 1900's by crossing a hair sheep breed, Mouflon, with a woolen
Rambouillet breed.  The New Mexico Dahl sheep have much deeper roots in the
history of America.  According to John Baxter’s book “Los Carneradas", Francisco
Vásquez de Coronado y Luján brought sheep in 1540 seeking the mystical Seven
Golden Cities of Cibola. Coronado and his supporters sank a fortune in his ill-fated
enterprise taking 1300 horses and mules for riding and packing and hundreds of
head of sheep and cattle as a portable food supply. Much to his chagrin Coronado's
greatest legacy was his loss of unknown quantities of sheep, horses and cattle into
the remote recesses of wild American Southwest. When Don Juan de Oñate arrived
with colonists to establish settlements in this vast land they brought 4000 sheep and
began the first cowboy ranching and livestock industry in Nuevo Mexico. Nuevo
Mexico  exported salt, piñon and hides. On January 26, 1598, Don Juan de Oñate left
Zacatecas, Mexico and arrived in the Kingdom of New Mexico April 30, 1598 to
establish the first significant infusion of colonists, a settlement in the New Mexico
Kingdom; (Jamestown was founded in 1607 in Virginia, and the Pilgrims arrived at
Plymouth MA in 1620). By 1827 the NM sheep industry had grown to one quarter of a
million sheep, with 65% being in the Alburquerque area.

Many hardships were endured by the individuals raising and trading livestock. There
was experimentation with less hardy breeds, the constant raiding by the Indians, and
the 1828 epidemic break out which affected the sheep industry in Durango, Mexico, to
name a few hardships. Two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) head were lost which
made the long and dangerous trip profitable for New Mexico sheep herders who
presumably raised a hardier breed. The Candelaria family tried to improve the breed
with merinos because their wool had more lanolin but their hooves were too soft and
they could not adapt to the rough New Mexico terrain. Spanish archives show that
Spanish planners of these expeditions investigated years in advance and invested
vast personal fortunes into the planning and preparation of their expeditions.  That is
well documented. A key element of survival and success is the advance planning of
food and water supply.  Any such undertaking would have certainly begged the
question, what kind of animal has the stamina to endure the unknown and yet untold
distances of the new world, and inherent in their own ability to survive hardship, thusly
keep us alive?  Willful goats and pigs have their own ideas and are more labor
intensive.  The lives of Coronado and his men depended on the survival of his food
source on the hoof.  Hair sheep could go where cattle and woolen sheep could not so
these hair sheep were the best bet and obvious choice for Coronado.    Clearly, the
hair sheep were the best gamble for expeditions like that of Coronado.  Given the
legacy of Coronado and others like him, these ancestors of the New Mexico Dahl
sheep have long been true to this hardiness claim.  They have over the past quarter
century reemerged, and are extant today.  This is one of nature’s miracles and a
credit to the ranchero planners and breeders of anonymity and antiquity.  
Donald A.
Chavez y Gilbert

•        Horns must show on registration photos for both ewes and rams when both or
one parent is unregistered.
•        1/8 or less of wool or other sheep parent breeds.
•        25% or less of Bighorn blood is allowed.
•        Sheep at maturity normally exhibiting shedding ability.

•        Rams’ horns which come within three inches of the face at maturity.
•        Extra Teats on ewes.
•        Slight under or overbite, with teeth just barely touching the edge of dental pad.
•        Sheep which do not shed out completely at maturity on a general basis.
•        Mature rams with no mane at any time.
•        Tails reaching all the way to the hocks.

        Sheep with more than two horns (such as Jacob Sheep).
        Sheep that are polled.
        Tails past the hocks.
        Docked tails.
        Sheep with more than 1/8th known wool breeding from the parent breeds.
        Sheep with any known wool breeding from any non-parent wool breed.
        Sheep with known Jacob bloodlines.
        Hermaphroditism.
        One or both testicles not descended.
        Severe under/overbite, with distinct space between teeth & edge of dental pad
        Evidence of cross breeding shown by physical appearance of breeds which are
not included in the history or background of New Mexico Dahl Sheep such as Suffolk,
Hampshire, Dorper, Katahdin, St Croix, etc.
        Entropion (inverted eyelids) or other genetic eyelid defects.
        Naturally occurring droopy or floppy ears on adults.
        Elf or Gopher Ears.

Sheep with Disqualifying traits are not eligible for registration and will be denied
registration. Excessive Discriminating traits of an individual sheep may render that
sheep ineligible for registration if, at the inspectors and board of directors discretion,
such traits seriously challenge the breed identity.
THIS website is copyright May 2009 by United Horned Hair Sheep Association, Inc.  
Active Members of UHHSA are permitted to use information on their website to help in
ethical and honest promotion and education about the breeds represented.  However,
a link to this website should be provided.

Pictures are copyrighted by owners of the sheep pictured and permission will need to
be sought to use the pictures.
Supracervical (SH)
Heart Shaped Horns displayed
by a Mouflon Ram
Measuring depth of the twist:  
Hand Placement is indicated
by the horizontal red lines.  The
depth is the vertcal blue line
Polycerate Horns
Multiple Horns (MH)
More than 2 horns is a
Variegated Horns
This hoof is variegated in color
New Mexico Dahl Ewe Lambs
with Typical Coloring
New Mexico Dahl 2 Year Old Rams
with Onate Coloring
Homonymous Horns (HH)
NM Dahl Ram
Black Horns on a NM Dahl Ewe with
Onate Coloring
Ewes must display horns
to be eligible for registration
Ears will generally be at parallel
to the ground (pictured above)
or above for these sheep.
Sheep which naturally have
ears below parallel to the
ground are disqualified from
Gopher Ear
Elf Ear Length
Natural Ear length
are a Disqualification from Registration
Normal Bite
Back Legs - Side View
Front Legs - Front View
Front Legs - Side View
Toes Angled
Pigeon Toed
Toes Angled
Weak Pasterns
Back Legs - Rear View
Both Testicles
Normal and even
(L) One testicle did not descend
Unilateral Cryptorchidism
(R) Both testicles did not descend
Bilateral Cryptorchidism
Both testicles small
sized but still
functioning properly
One testicle
smaller than the
Tail Lengths
Tails with these lengths are Correct
Tails to the hocks are acceptable but
considered a fault.
Tails past the hocks (red horizontal line) are
not acceptable and is a Disqualification from
White Horns on NM Dahl Ram
White Horns on a NM Dahl Ewe on the right
To the Left is a young NM Dahl ewe with white horns
Homonymous Webbed Horns (HW)
Painted Desert Ram
Click on picture above to learn how to
measure and score YOUR ram!
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