The Dorper breed was developed in South Africa during the 1930's, by crossing the Dorset ram to the Black Headed Persian ewe, which was indigenous to Africa. This new breed was born out of a necessity to have sheep that would have good meat qualities, yet be able to thrive in the arid conditions of South Africa. Selection was pursued to produce top carcass characteristics as well as having high fertility and lambs that would grow out quickly. Dorpers were imported into North America in the mid 1990's. The Dorper and White Dorper are maintained as separate breeds, but they only differ in color. Bred for its lean, tender meat, its broad frame and ideal muscling, the Dorper is a very good forager, tolerant to a broad range of conditions, and capable of breeding year-round with increased lambing percentages as compared to wool-type sheep in studies at Texas A&M University. The breed is particularly well-suited for small growers since there is not a need to shear the sheep. Some growers are using these sheep to help maintain their properties rather than mowing grass and spraying weeds.
A well-balanced sheep with strong, deep, wide body and correct legs and feet. Rams must be well muscled and strong from the front to the back. Ewes must be lighter in front and getting bigger and heavier to the back (a wedge shape). A ewe must look feminine, with a feminine head and a long graceful neck. The sheep should be symmetrical and well proportioned. A calm temperament with a vigorous appearance is ideal.