Mother with her 10 month old ewe lamb

General Breed Information



Breed Name/Strain :


Common Name/Synonym:


Breed Group Name:

Fat-tailed Hair Sheep 

Subgroup Information:


Group Origin:

The ancestral wild stock of both the thin-tailed and the fat-tailed sheep is identical. Fat-tailed sheep made their first appearance in Africa (Egypt) at the beginning of the second millennium. Waves of this sheep type probably entered Africa at various occasions through both the straits of Suez and Bab el Mandeb. From Egypt, the population spread westwards into Libya, Tunisia and eastern Algeria, but did not extend to the south. The group that entered through Bab el Mandeb extended from Ethiopia into the lake region of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, but did not enter into Congo. The particular relevance of the fat deposit in the tail to pastoral communities as a source of energy-rich food might have contributed to the extensive replacement of the original thin-tailed sheep by the fat-tailed types. The fat-tailed, hair sheep inhabits the whole of eastern and southern Africa from Ethiopia southwards. They are very variable in tail form and in extent of woolly undercoat. Fat-tailed breeds of sheep with hairy (carpet wool) fleece extend westwards as far as Tunisia, while Algeria and Morocco have breeds with the same hairy fleece, but thin tails (Epstein, 1971; Ryder, 1984). 

Breed Origin :

The fat-tailed Pedi sheep arrived in South Africa between 200 and 400 AD with the Bapedi people who migrated southwards into the Northern province of South Africa and settled in the area south of Soutpansberg (Ramsay et al., ND). 

Main Location:

Found in the Northern Province of South Africa. A flock of Pedi sheep was established and maintained at the Stellenbosch breeding station in Sekukhuneland in the Northern province and a second flock was established for recording and evaluation purposes on the farm Delftzyl near Roedtan in the Northern province in the mid-1980s (Ramsay et al., n.d.). 


 Pedi sheep are predominantly grazers although, in common with other indigenous African animal breeds, they are equally happy browsing. Their extremely hardy nature makes them adaptable to all the varied climatic regions of South Africa from the harsh Karoo to the tropical Natal and Eastern Mpumalanga Provinces.

Special Characteristic:

Small framed, naturally polled, fat-tailed sheep with a flat, shallow body and long legs; the fat tail is usually long and straight, although variations in tail shape do occur; coat colour varies from uniform brown through white with a red to brown head, to a variety of black and white patterns; the most common colour is white with a red-brown head, which resulted from selection for this trait in the foundation flock at Stellenbosch (Ramsay et al., n.d.). 

Commercial Viability of Thaba Manzi Pedis
Although the Pedi is a small framed sheep (adult ewes average 35 to 40Kg, rams average 50 to 60Kg) that reaches an ideal slaughter / dressed weight of 18Kg (30Kg live weight) at around 12 months of age for rams and 14 months for ewes, its commercial production is highly competitive for the following reasons:
  • Thaba Manzi Pedi sheep are naturally selected, minimum care veldt sheep that cost very little to keep.
  • Their fat tails are highly sought after for the making of droŽwors and as an additive to game dishes.
  • Thaba Manzi Pedi sheep have high reproductive rates (2 lambings per year, first lambing at 11 months, 6 month lambing intervals thereafter with a high percentage of twins successfully weaned on the veldt)
  • Mothering abilities are outstanding. (We have witnessed mothers actively defending lambs from jackal)
  • Thaba Manzi Pedi sheep are exceptionally hardy sheep that hardly ever get sick.
  • The majority of  our animals never need de-worming.
  • Pedi sheep are resistant to Heart-water and other local diseases.
  • At Thaba Manzi we do not even vaccinate for Pulpy Kidney and Blue Tongue and Pedi sheep have a natural resistance to heartwater. (In 7 years we have not had a single sheep die of these causes)
  • Natural resistance to ticks. (Although we do find ticks on our cattle and dip them regularly, our Pedi sheep have never needed dipping other than a foot bath in their race)
  • The Pedi sheep's natural grazing habits and wide range of forage requirements allow many more animals to be stocked without over-grazing at Thaba Manzi.
  • As Thaba Manzi's Pedi sheep are browsers as well as grazers they use the veldt more efficiently to produce meat off the veldt.
  • Pedis have long strong legs which allows them to walk long distances in search of food and water and they stay in good condition even in the worst drought conditions.
  • The increasing demand for grass-fed meat, free of additives, makes the Pedi sheep a perfect breed for the future.
  • Easy maintenance and "fire-and-forget-missile" characteristics make Pedi sheep an ideal breed for emerging farmers and for smallholders looking for worry-free "lawnmowers" for their plots.

On a kg/hectare/input costs basis Thaba Manzi Pedi sheep cannot be beaten.

Meat Properties of Thaba Manzi Pedis

Live well by eating well.

Tasty, tender and healthy - Thaba Manzi Pedis:

  • Because of their wide and natural dietary intake. (they literally eat anything - grass, leaves, roots, weeds, cactus etc).
  • Pedi sheep meat is lean, because the fat is mainly centred in the tail.
  • Because they are slaughtered at a later age, the meat is more tasty.
  • Veldt sheep raised on grasses and bushes alone, our sheep have no access to commercial growth stimulants.
  • Because these healthy sheep hardly ever need de-worming or treatment, you don't eat the chemicals.
  • Growth and weight-gaining stimulants fed to intensively produced animals probably contribute to obesity in the people that eat them. Our Pedi sheep are free of these growth stimulants.


They taste better than Karoo lamb!

© Thaba Manzi Ranch 2007-