Targhee sheep in the field

Targhee Sheep Breed: Information, Behavior, and Care

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The Targhee sheep breed is a fairly new breed developed by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. It comprises medium to large animals with a friendly temperament and high-quality wool and meat. Targhee sheep are strong and hardy and thrive in Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming ranges.

Although they’re a dual-purpose breed that produces reasonable amounts of meat and wool, most people keep them for wool. This is because the carcass quality is inferior to other competing breeds.

Quick Facts about the Targhee Sheep Breed

Country of origin United States of America
Breed name Targhee
Breed purpose Meat, wool
Mature body weight
  • Ram – 200 to 300 lbs.
  • Ewe – 130 to 200 lbs.
Average fiber diameter 23 microns
Grease fleece weight 10 to 14 lbs.
Fleece staple length 3 to 5 inches
Care level Low
Temperature Native climates
Temperament Docile and easy to maintain

History of the Targhee Sheep Breed

Scientists at the US Sheep Experimentation center in Dubois, Idaho, developed the Targhee sheep breed in 1926.

The project’s objective was to create a breed ideal for the western range that guarantees high-quality and high-quantity meat and wool production. So it was started in the 20th century with a gene pool consisting of Corriedale, Lincoln, and Rambouillet sheep breeds.

The flock book for these sheep closed in 1966, meaning that the registry only accepted the new breed of Targhee sheep into the register.

The name Targhee was sourced from the nearby national forest, where the animals liked grazing during summer. The forest got its name from a local chief who led the Bannock Indians in the area in the 19th century.

Targhee sheep in the field

Characteristics of the Targhee Sheep Breed

This sheep breed is a medium to large breed. A heavy wool coat without folds and wrinkles runs over their long, compact, and proportionate bodies. Only the legs have no wool.

Most of the face is bare, except in some animals where some wool extends to the area between the eyes.

Targhee sheep have rump and muscular short legs to support the plump body. Their heads are covered by wool, except for the face.

In instances where the wool coat extends to the space between the eyes, it doesn’t interfere with the animal’s vision (wool blindness.) Targhee sheep are polled, and nothing ever grows from their horn sockets.

Most Targhee sheep are entirely white. Small specks of brown and black on the face, ears, lower legs, and feet are normal. However, larger pigments indicate an underlying health condition. Any spot shouldn’t be larger than a $0.25 coin.

Mature rams weigh between 200 and 300 lbs. while ewes range from 130 lbs. to 200 lbs. Concerning wool production, the animals have a light grease fleece weight that ranges between 10 and 14 lbs, with an average staple length of four inches.

Each fiber has a diameter ranging between 21 and 25 microns, an average yield of 53%, and a spinning count between 50s and 60s.

Targhee ewes have excellent mothering and milking ability. They have a higher twin weaning and survival rate than other dual-purpose breeds in different climatic conditions.

When weaned, the lambs are usually in good health, and most grow into healthy and productive adults.

Typical Behavior of the Targhee Sheep Breed

Targhee sheep are a docile breed with strong flocking instincts. They like staying in groups, whether indoors or outdoors.

However, they are calm and responsive to human instructions. They only flee if you get too close to them.

The ewes have desirable maternal instincts. They protect the lambs from the rest of the flock and ensure they get enough feed. This protection continues until the young ones can survive independently.

Two sheep grazing

Advantages of the Targhee Sheep Breed

The Targhee sheep breed is famous for producing fine-quality wool. Its fleece is uniform and dense.

It’s also elastic and soft-textured, making it suitable for blankets, clothes, and knitted garments. Each wool crop weighs between 10 and 14 lbs.

When the animal is no longer productive, you can slaughter it, consume the meat and sell the skin. Sheepskin is useful for making clothes and furniture upholstery.

You can use your Targhee sheep for landscape management if you have a messy yard or farm.

These animals are excellent grazers and foragers that will consume every blade of grass and leave your yard neat. 

Disadvantages of the Targhee Sheep Breed

The main factor behind the shortcomings of the Targhee sheep breed is their recency. The animals are still under research, as they’re barely 100 years old.

Most people keep the sheep for wool. However, many farmers prefer slaughtering sheep to letting them die when they are no longer productive. With Targhee sheep, the meat quality is inferior to other dual-purpose breeds.

Fortunately, there’s hope that the ongoing research will result in a superior Targhee sheep breed that produces high-quality meat.

Taking Care of the Targhee Sheep Breed

Here are tips for taking care of your Targhee sheep.

Deworming and vaccination

Targhee sheep are relatively resistant to diseases, but it’s best to deworm them every three months to eliminate the risk of intestinal parasites. These parasites cause dehydration, malnutrition, and other health problems.

Some diseases that affect sheep are contagious. Vaccinating each animal is the best way to prevent such diseases from affecting your entire flock.

Different vaccines have varying administration frequencies, so it’s essential to consult a vet beforehand.

Provide food and water

Sheep are grazers that mainly feed on grass, hay, and legumes. Ensure that these forage types make up most of the animal’s diet. If your pasture doesn’t have enough grass, supplement it with hay.

Lastly, provide at least 3 liters of water daily to your sheep. This amount varies with age, sex, health status, and prevailing environmental conditions.


Despite being a relatively new breed, Targhee sheep have several outstanding qualities. They are a hardy breed that can survive range and farm conditions. The ewes are excellent mothers that guarantee a high lamb survival rate.

More importantly, the breed produces high-quality wool suitable for many industrial applications. Unfortunately, their meat quality is lower than other dual-purpose breeds.


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