The Breed

Physical Characteristics

The Racka is a small to medium-sized sheep; the animals are fine-grained with a strikingly narrow head, woolly forehead and forelock. The eyes are large and the ears smaller than most other breeds; the ears also protrude horizontally with the shell pointing down. The neck is well set deep into the chest with relatively few muscles of size, so the sheep can lift its head very high. The breed has upright joints, a narrow back and a deep chest. The tail is very long with very long wool. Also typical is the somewhat well-developed hind-quarters, and the straight topline to the wither before the head is held up high. The hooves are rather small for the body size, but are exceptionally hard and insensitive. The breed has a mixed fleece (hair/underwool = 1/2), and a long body. The rams are circa 70cm tall and weigh around 50kg; the ewes are circa 65cm tall and weigh around 40kg.

In the current known UK flock, about 40% of the sheep have a black fleece, with a black skin; the remainder are cream-white with a light brown-yellow skin. Some sheep are white or have spots on their head and legs. The wool is very long and curly (staple length 25-30cm with a fibre diameter of 15-60 microns).

The legs and head are unwooled, except for a tuft on the forehead (present in varying degrees between animals. The tail is very long with long wool.

The horns of white and cream-fleeced animals are yellow, sometimes with black stripes (these should preferably be uniform); the horns of the black-fleeced sheep are black. Both rams and ewes have spiral-shaped horns, the smallest standard length of which is around 50cm for rams, and around 25cm for ewes

The breed comes in two colours: cream-white and black. Lambs of the cream variety are born with a yellowish to dark-brown fleece, becoming lighter as they grow, whilst their legs and head remain light brown. Black lambs are always born with jet black fleece, with the tips of the fleece greying as the animal ages until the whole of the sheep’s outer fleece (excluding the neck) becomes grey in later adulthood.  Lamb fleece is always glossy and curled, and full of lustre which decreases with age. Black fleece turns grey at the extremities as the sheep ages; other than this the rest of the fleeces of both colours should be monochrome. The adult fleece is a coarse, curly and bushy mixed wool with a fibre diameter of 15-60 microns. Near the body, the wool becomes matted and felted in such a manner as to give a look as if it is hanging down in curls. The length of the wool is between 25 to 30 centimetres, with the fleece of the black Racka usually shorter. Due to the mixed wool and long curls, the animals are particularly weatherproof and resistant to heat, cold, rain, snow and sandstorms. The annual wool yield is 4 to 5 kilograms for rams and 2 to 3 kilograms for females, with shearing mostly taking place only once a year (however, for management, it is sometimes easier to shear bi annually).

The sheep can adapt extremely well to regional climatic and food conditions. The Racka sheep is generally considered to be a relatively good milk breed with excellent udders and teats, and is still partly milked in some areas today. During the 100-day lactation period, the sheep give up to 70 litres of milk.

The horns of the rams are at least 50cm long and should have a minimum of 3 windings; the distance between the points of the horns should be around 80cm. Ewes have horns of at least 25cm long with at least 2 windings; the distance between the points of the horns should be approximately 41cm. The horns of cream-white animals are yellow, sometimes with black stripes (preferably uniform); the horns of the black animals are black.

The peculiar horn shape is the result of the interaction between the length-growth and circular-growth genes: the dominant nature of the length-growth gene in the Racka results in the long, spiral horn. If these two kinds of growth were to be balanced (i.e. one were not dominant), the sheep would develop horns similar to those seen in breeds such as the Dorset Horn, Black Welsh Mountain, and the presumed ancestor of the Racka: the Argali. If this type of horn is present in the Racka its conformation is incorrect and considered a fault.


The Racka sheep breed is characterised by vitality and liveliness. Racka sheep are very sensitive to external influences such as stress or noise and can be extremely shy. They tend to be nervous, which is why they are difficult to catch outdoors.


Fertility is low: about 100%, with twin births occurring in only 5-15% of cases. It is common for some ewes not to reproduce for one or more years.

When cross-breeding between cream-white and black animals, the cream-white gene is dominant, however in he first cross of the two colours the offspring can appear as cream-white sheep with dark brown or black spots. The first crossed progeny will only be eligible for Register A in the Flock Book, as the genetic differences between cream-white and Black Racka are greater than simply their colour.