Also Known By: Ivesti (Turkish), Arab, Baladi, Deiri, Shami, Gezirieh, Syrian; Varieties: Israeli Improved Awassi, Ne'imi, Shafali

The Awassi evolved as a nomadic sheep breed through centuries of natural and selective breeding to become the highest milk producing breed in the Middle East. The breed is of the Near Eastern Fat-tailed type. The average ewe has single lactions over 300 liters (650 pounds) per 210 day lactation and it is not uncommon for outstanding females to have 210 day lactations above 750 liters (1625 pounds). As a comparison the lactation of the average U.S. sheep breed is about 100-200 pounds per lactation.

The breed is calm around people, easy to work with and easily milked. When machine milked, they can be milked in 4-6 minutes. The breed also has the advantage of natural hardiness and grazing ability. The breed is well suited to a grazing production system as well as a confinement operation.

The Awassi has a brown face and legs with the fleece varying in color from brown to white. Individuals can also be found with black, white, grey or spotted faces. The males are horned and the females are usually polled. The fleece is mostly carpet type with a varying degree of hair. According to "World Animal Science" Sheep and Goat Production (Elseviez Scientific Publication Co. 1982) the following measurements are representative of Awassi wool:

Mean fiber diameter 33 Micron
Grease Fleece Weight 1.9 kilograms (4.2 pounds)
Yield 85 %
Staple length 16.5 cm
Fleece composition


69 %


24 %


7 %


Correspondence, Elite Genetics, Waukon, IA

Mason, I.L. 1988. World Dictionary of Livestock Breeds. Third Edition. C.A.B International. 348 pp.


Elite Genetics, Waukon, IA

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Updated October 18, 1996