Dohne sheep were developed in South Africa through a breeding program carried out by the South African Department of Agriculture in 1939. The dual-purpose breed is the result of crossing Peppin-type Merino ewes and German Mutton Merino sires. The program focused on enhancing fertility, growth rates and wool production in a commercial pastoral setting. Today, performance and progeny testing ensure that a successful fixed type will be carried through generations.
Dohne sheep are predominantly bred as fast growing, heavyweight slaughter lambs and for their fine-medium white wool. Lambs are known to have growth rates of up to 5000 grams per day , reaching around 50 kilograms at only 6 months old. They are a naturally polled breed with medium-sized frames. They are recognised for their rapid growth rates, high fertility, and efficient meat production. Mature ewes typically weigh between 60 and 75 kilograms, and can produce quality white wool of up to 6 kilograms, at 18-22 microns.
The breed is also known for its climatic adaptability, fleece rot resistance, and ability to perform well in different management systems, including intensive production systems and extensive arid rangeland. Other meat breeds are often used as terminal sires over Dohne ewes. Lamb processors are particularly fond of the Dohne carcase as there is less need to trim at higher weights.
Dohne sheep first arrived in Australia in 1997 with an original importation of 600 embryos, with the first lambs born the following year. The Australian Dohne Breeders Association was established 13 years later in 2000. In 1999, an additional 300 embryos were purchased by a Western Australian breeder. The ABDA enforces a rigid breed evaluation system which takes into account pedigree and performance records, ensuring that genetic improvement is constantly perpetuated. Ultimately, this will improve profitability for Dohne breeders around Australia as it acts as a quality assurance mechanism.