About > Breed Standards

The American Southdown Breed – Standards of Excellence

The Southdown is unique to producing a high quality, lean market lamb with a minimal amount of feed. It produces a carcass with tenderness and flavor unmatched by any other breed. The general appearance should be active and alert, and at the same time, retain the quiet disposition for which the breed is noted. Compared to the ewe, the ram should be distinctly masculine with a wider muzzle, a bold eye, and overall appearance of strength. The ewe should show more refinement in the head and neck with more width and depth in the hindquarters than in the frontquarters. She should have no difficulty in lambing, and her mothering instincts should never be in doubt. It is important to have ewes that are adaptable to your environment that will breed, lactate, and produce desirable lambs.


The head gives any breed its distinguishing character. It should be carried high. The muzzle should be moderate in length. The hair on the muzzle should be gray to brown, not white and not approaching black. Any wool covering in front of the eyes should be short so that at no time can the sheep be woolblind. It should be emphasized that the modern Southdown should have a moderate amount of wool about the face and eyes. The tear ducts should be free of wool just below the eyes. Ears are moderate in length, should be level, and proportionate to the head size. The optimum ear should be medium thickness and covered with wool. Short hair is acceptable. Slick ears are discriminated against. It is not uncommon to have black or brown pigmentation on the ear. The optimum color of the tip of the nostril should be black, color blue or purple is acceptable and some speckles are not uncommon. However, solid pink is to be discriminated against.


Shoulders should be muscular with well laid in spring of the rib. Shoulders and neck that are not too thick, and head not too wide between the ears facilitates easy lambing. Flat, wide-topped shoulders should be discriminated against. Forelegs should not set too wide apart nor should the brisket be so prominent as to indicate wastiness of carcass. Neck should not be overly short and should be well set up on the shoulders and be free from wrinkles.

Back and Loin

Back is long with more than one half the overall length in the hindsaddle as measured from the dock to the thirteenth rib, and level from front to rear. Loin is wide with well developed loin eye. Animals that exhibit unnatural muscling of the rack and shortened loin associated with the callipyge mutation should be discriminated against.


Hindquarters are wider than the forequarters and carry good width to the pin bones. Dock is carried high with an absence of patchiness. There should be a good bulge on the outside of the leg to indicate heavy muscling. Depth of the twist due to muscling is desirable; depth of the twist due to a build-up of fat is to be discriminated against. Animals that exhibit a tendency toward a steep hip and unnatural muscling of the leg associated with the callipyge mutation should be discriminated against.

Feet and Legs

Feet and legs should stand wide behind, with correct set of hocks and pasterns. We should be encouraged to select sheep with less wool on the inside of the upper foreleg and the upper inside back leg, around the crotch, and scrotum. Southdowns with longer legs should indicate growth potential. The hoof color should be black, or black with a few white stripes. Total white hooves are a disqualification. A moderate amount of wool on the legs below the knees and hocks is desirable. The hair color on the legs should be similar to the muzzle but could be darker.


Southdowns have always been considered a moderate framed sheep that is well balanced in conformation. Keeping the conformation Southdowns are noted for, the optimum size for a yearling ram in moderate flesh is 32-34 inches and 225  - 250 pounds. Yearling ewes should be 28-30 inches and 160 - 200 pounds. All measurements for standardization is at the shoulder. Breeding stock should be well proportioned as to height and overall length. Selecting sires and replacement ewes by measurement of overall length and height at weaning or as yearlings should encourage the genetic development of large Southdowns that are still easy keepers.

Fleece and Hide

Fleece should be dense and uniform over the entire body. Black spots in the wool are discriminated against. Wool of 1/2 to 3/8 blood or 56 to 60s preferred. Skin should be light in color but some speckling on the hide is acceptable. A nice smooth skin is optimum. Wrinkles on the hide are not recommended.


Ewes should have a large udder but not pendulous. She should be capable of producing and raising twins, particularly after the first year. The ewe should normally be active and productive under average care through her eighth year and often through her tenth year. Rams should be free from stiffness and remain active and vigorous for a similar length of time. Ewes and rams with proper management should require no grain in order to maintain a thrifty condition with the exception of lactating ewes and young, rapidly growing lambs. Southdowns need to produce an optimum size lean carcass. Southdowns that exhibit evidence of the callipyge mutation should be discriminated against, due to the long-standing and well documented problems related to carcass quality that carry a negative industry bias.

  • Solid scurs or horns
  • One or both testicles not descended
  • Incisor teeth not meeting dental pad
  • Rectal or vaginal prolapse
  • Inverted eyelids
  • Scrotal rupture
  • Hairy and/or shaker lambs
  • "Spider" lambs
  • Evidence of crossbreeding
  • Total white hooves
  • Mottling or brockling of head or legs
  • Pronounced Roman nose