Updated result of the phenotypic characterization and description of the indigenous sheep population was reviewed. The reviewed paper used reporting and tabulating published descriptive phenotypic information on Ethiopian breeds with the aim of dissemination of relevant information for the beneficiaries. The original sheep breed types in Ethiopia that migrated from South West Asia to Africa and then to Ethiopia were the thin-tailed, fat-tailed and fat-rump. Through time, they evolved into 14 traditionally recognized sheep breeds which are identified and described through phenotypic characterization of the representative sample flocks. The breeds adapted to different agro ecological zones varied in topographical features and humidity. The overall reviews of the adult average live body weight variation of the local sheep population of Ethiopia are classified into 20 to 25 kg (Elle, Abergelle and Menz); 26 to 30 kg (Afar, Tikur, Highland sheep, Washera and Black Head Somali [BHS]); 31 to 35 kg (Bonga, Begait, Horro, Arusi-Bale and Farta) and 36 to 40 kg (Gumuz). The large sheep breeds of Ethiopia are Begait, Washera, Gumuz, Horro and Bonga. There is a variation on phenotypic performance among the sheep breeds of the Ethiopia in terms of body shape and size, ear profile and size, head profile, tail size and shape, coat color and on the adaptive behaviors. Molecular characterization should be done for comprehensive genetic evaluation and classification of the indigenous sheep population at national level.
Key words: Sheep breed, phenotypic variation, sheep classification, tail type and tail shape.
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