WELCOME TO THE PAGE OF THE INTERNATIONAL DJALLONKÉ SPECIALIST GROUP
On this page you will find the most relevant information concerning the "Djallonké" sheep. Also known by the misnomers the "West African Dwarf Sheep" or "Cameroon Sheep".

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The Djallonké sheep which is also referred to as  West African dwarf sheep (North American naming) & Cameroon sheep (European naming) is found in West Africa, its range extending from southern Senegal (Casamance) to Guinea, southern Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin , southern Togo, south-west Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Rep.Congo, west -and south west DR.Congo and north western Angola. It is adapted for life in humid forested area, sub-humid areas and savannahs. It was developed over centuries in the Fouta Djallon region of Guinea. And spread by the Fulani (Peul) people all over west and central africa. 

Synonyms: West African Dwarf, Guinea sheep, Guinea Dwarf, Ghana Dwarf, Nigerian Dwarf, Cameroon Dwarf, West African Maned, Mosi, Blackbelly (Cameroon Dwarf), Cameroon sheep, Mayo-Kebbi, Kirdi (southern Chad).
Nicknames: Rainforest sheep, Antelope sheep

Species: Sheep
Group: Thin-tailed Hair sheep
Subgroup: Tropical Dwarf

Origin: The hairy thin tailed type of sheep originated in western Asia, and entered Africa through the Isthmus of Suez and Bab el Mandeb. Until the third Millennium BC, the hairy thin-tailed sheep was the only type of sheep on the African continent. Domestic sheep had reached Egypt and other parts of North Africa by 5000 BC (Epstein, 1971).

Special Characteristics: A peculiarity of the breed is the tolerance to trypanosomes, the pathogens of the tsetse fly transmitted Naganaseuche. Its also adapted to a hot and humid climate of coastal West -and central Africa. And due to its small size well adapted in the African rainforests.

Depending on the region and the tribes that keep them, certain color types are preferred.
  • White or piebald, the front half being black and the back half white. This is the general color.
  • Skewbald (tan on white)
  • Blackbelly pattern
  • Kirdi or Poulfouli (wholly black), a color type bred mainly in northern Cameroon and southwestern Chad.
The correct name for the "Cameroon sheep" or "West African Dwarf sheep"  is "Djallonké" (in the Fulani language). During the colonial era, German and French rulers exported sheep to France and Germany. And the Germans were particularly interested in the black bellied animals of this breed because they are more of a wild color such as an antelope. ( This while in West Africa they would rather not have this color type.) These usually ended up in private collections and zoos. In Germany the importers referred the sheep to their colony. Hence why today these sheeps are called Cameroon sheep/Cameroon Dwarf sheep in Europe.  And incorrectly regarded as a separate breed. Even though fanciers in the USA imported sheep from various countries in West Africa. And added its region of origin in its name. The ONLY correct name is "Djallonké"!

It is sad to see how naming in Africa is still determined by the West. Colonial fieldwork is still indiscriminately adopted in academic literature without even considering the proper indigenous designation. And unfortunately this does not only apply to Livestock.  Fortunately, at least ILRI a member of the CGIAR consortium backed by the United Nations is clearly mentioning as Djallonké being the main name of the breed and not a group. And Cameroon or Cameroon dwarf sheep as a synonym.  See link 

The chestnut-colored drawing is not prevalent in the Djallonké, but only one of many. This color is nowhere to be found in West Africa. It has become a rarity. This while in Europe it is the most common color. Black bellied chocolate, black bellied light brown, black bellied dark brown, and fully black are most common in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France. Since in Europe they have been breeding this color for many generations, an interesting genetic cluster has emerged. And this genetic material is very interesting for blood refreshing in Africa. 

It is often claimed by international zoos and private breeders that this is a rare breed with less than 1000 heads left. This is incorrect. This is partly due to the misnomer in Europe and America. The breed is one of the most popular and widely distributed sheep breed in Africa. In Ivory Coast, for example, there are more than 1200000 Djallonké sheep. And also in Togo there are more than 500000. Similar numbers can be found in Benin, Cameroon and Guinea. And the AOBA herd located in the south-west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo totals 5000 sheep.

Very similar to the Djallonké sheep is the larger Barbados blackbelly sheep polled in both sexes, whose ancestors probably arrived in the Caribbean with slave transports. In the 20th century, many Barbados sheep were brought from Barbados to the UK and mainland Europe. And just like the Djallonké sheep, this breed started to gain popularity. Due to the lack of mutual knowledge among hobbyists and sheep farmers, sometimes Barbados sheep were (are) confused with Cameroon sheep. As a result, there are many crosses of these two breeds in Europe. Many crosses and / or pure Barbados are offered as Cameroon sheep. And these animals seem too far from the true breed standard. Far too large sheep that are no longer dwarf.  A real Djallonké or (Cameroon sheep / Cameroon Dwarf sheep) should be a dwarf with horns.

The opposite is happening in zoos where because of the misnomers and the erroneous breed recognition of zoos, the international zoo population is small. As a result, limited new blood and poor inbreeding have caused extreme downsizing of the sheep. The extreme dwarf forms in some zoos contrast strongly with the dwarf sheep in Africa.


Breed standard:
  • Should be a small, short-tailed sheep
  • Elongated head with small short pendulous ears
  • The neck is long and slender, the chest is deep, the legs are short, the back is long and dished, higher at the withers than at the tail-head, and the tail reaches the hocks.
  • The coat is dense and tight. 
  • Hair (wool formation is not accepted)
  • Bucks should have sickle horns (polled bucks are accepted but not preffered). The horns are wide at the base, curve backwards, outwards and then forwards again, with a maximum of one and a half coils. 
  • Ewes are usually polled (hornless), but may have slender short horns.
  • Bucks should have a well-developed throat ruff (mane) on the neck and chest. 
  • Rams weigh approximately 25-30 kg (82 lb) (Up to 35 kg is accepted, but not preffered. Its a dwarf sheep, not a medium size sheep.) Prefference 25kg.
  • Rams height at the withers up to 50/60 cm
  • Ewes weigh about 20-25 kg (55 lb) (Up to 30 kg is accepted, but not preffered. Its a dwarf sheep, not a medium size sheep.) Prefference 20kg.
  • Ewes height at the withers up to 40/50 cm
The heat of the Djallonké sheep is aseasonal. Two lambs per year are possible.