Assaf Sheep

The Assaf sheep is a breed of domestic sheep which was originated from Israel. It was developed by crossbreeding the Awassi and East Friesian sheep.

It is a dual-purpose animal and raised for both meat and milk production. But it is used primarily for milk production.

Along with the availability in it’s native area, the breed has also spread to other Mediterranean countries.

The Assaf sheep are raised and managed under an intensive production system in Israel (involving weaning lambs at birth, rearing them artificially and milking the ewes after parturition).

Researchers of the Israeli Agricultural Research Organization started the development project in 1955, aiming to improve the fecundity of the Awassi sheep breed. And the Assaf sheep is a combination of 3/8 East Friesian and 5/8 Awassi blood.

Today the Assaf sheep is raised as a dual-purpose animal for both meat and milk, but they are mainly valued for their milk production.

Demand for this breed is increasing every year. And it has been exported to Chile, Peru, Portugal and Spain. Read some more information about this Israeli sheep breed below.

Assaf Sheep Characteristics

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The Assaf sheep are medium sized animals. They are mainly white in color with white face. Both rams and ewes are generally polled. Photo and info from Wikipedia.


The Assaf sheep are dual-purpose animals. They are raised for both milk and meat production. But they are raised mainly as a milk sheep breed for producing milk.

Special Notes

The Assaf sheep are very hardy animals. They are well adapted to their local climates and also do well in some other countries.

Most dairy sheep breeders in Israel have adapted this breed. The breed is considered not only a top quality dairy sheep and excellent mutton producer, but is also well-adapted to semi-extensive to extensive production systems.

The ewes have approximately 3 lambing in 2 years under Israeli conditions. Average annual milk production of the ewes is around 450 kg. However, review full breed profile of this breed in the following chart.

Breed NameAssaf
Other Name None
Breed PurposeMainly milk, but are also prized for quality meat production
Special NotesVery hardy and strong animals, well adapted to their local climates, also do well in some other countries, most of the Israeli sheep breeders have adapted these animals for producing milk, well adapted to semi-extensive to extensive management system, the ewes are good milk producers, they produce around 450 kg milk per year, the ewes approximately have 3 lambing in 2 years,
Breed SizeMedium
HornsGenerally polled
Climate ToleranceAlmost all climates
ColorMainly white
Country/Place of OriginIsrael

Assaf Sheep Interesting Facts

Here some interesting facts about the Assaf sheep breed.

Origin and History

The Assaf sheep breed was developed in the 1950s in Israel by crossing two breeds of sheep – the Awassi sheep and the East Friesian sheep.

The goal was to create a breed that could adapt to the harsh environmental conditions of Israel while also producing high-quality milk. The breed was named after the Agricultural Research Organization’s Animal Science Division (Assaf) in Israel.

Appearance and Size

Assaf sheep are medium to large-sized animals, with ewes weighing between 70 to 100 kg and rams weighing between 90 to 140 kg. They have white or cream-colored wool and a distinctive black or brown patch on their head. They have a broad chest and well-developed muscles, making them suitable for meat production as well.

Milk Production

The Assaf sheep breed is highly valued for its milk production, and they are capable of producing up to 800 liters of milk per lactation. The milk produced by Assaf sheep is rich in fat and protein and has a high lactose content, making it ideal for cheese and yogurt production.


Assaf sheep are known for their ability to adapt to different environmental conditions. They are hardy animals and can tolerate extreme temperatures, making them well-suited to arid and semi-arid regions. They are also resistant to many common sheep diseases.


Assaf sheep are bred using artificial insemination techniques, which helps to maintain the breed’s genetic purity. The breeding program is designed to enhance milk production while maintaining the breed’s adaptability to different environmental conditions.

Economic Importance

Assaf sheep are highly valued for their milk production, and they play a significant role in the dairy industry in many countries. They are also used for meat production, and their wool is used to make textiles.

Conservation Status

Assaf sheep are not currently listed as a threatened species. However, conservation efforts are being made to preserve the genetic diversity of the breed and to maintain its adaptability to different environmental conditions.


Assaf sheep require a balanced diet to maintain good health and maximize milk production. Their diet typically includes hay, silage, and concentrate feeds. Assaf sheep are also known to be selective feeders, meaning they will choose specific plants over others if given the option.


Assaf sheep reach sexual maturity at around six to eight months of age, and the breeding season typically occurs in the fall. Ewes can give birth to one to three lambs per pregnancy, and the gestation period is approximately 145 to 155 days.

Use in Research

Assaf sheep have been used in various research studies to investigate different aspects of their biology and physiology. For example, they have been used to study the effects of dietary supplements on milk production and the effects of different feeding regimes on wool quality.

Cultural Significance

Assaf sheep are highly valued in Israeli culture, where they are considered a symbol of the country’s agricultural success. They are also celebrated in local festivals and events, such as the annual Assaf sheep festival in the Golan Heights region of Israel.

Global Distribution

Assaf sheep are primarily found in Israel, but they have also been exported to other countries, including Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the United States. In these countries, they are used primarily for dairy production.


Assaf sheep are often crossed with other breeds to create hybrid sheep that combine desirable traits from both breeds. For example, Assaf sheep have been crossed with Merino sheep to create a breed known as Merinolandschaf, which is highly valued for its wool production.


Despite their hardiness and adaptability, Assaf sheep are still susceptible to various diseases and parasites. Common challenges faced by Assaf sheep farmers include parasitic infections, mastitis, and foot rot. Proper management practices and veterinary care are essential to maintaining the health and productivity of Assaf sheep.

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