Hu sheep are well recognized for the beautiful wavy lambskins, early sexual maturity, aseasonal breeding, prolificacy and the adaptability to a hot and humid climate. Hu sheep are raised indoors all year round.
Hu sheep were originated from Mongolian sheep. As early as in the Song Dynasty (AD 420-479) Mongolian sheep were introduced from the pastoral region of North China to the Taihu lake basin which borders the present provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu. Hu sheep became to being as a result of a long process of acclimatization and artificial selection. Hu sheep are distributed in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces and the suburbs of Shanghai.
The fleece of Hu sheep consists of white coarse wool and heterotypical fibers. The ears are big and drooping and the eyes are protruded. The nose line is convex. The neck and body are long. The chest is narrow and the legs are long. The tail is short and round with the tip upward-pointing. Both sexes are polled. Hu sheep grow fast. The adult weights can be reached at the age of 12 months. The adult rams weigh 47-65 kg, and adult ewes weigh 32-44 kg.
The lambskins taken from lambs slaughtered within the day of birth have distinctive wave-like stripes which are still retained after processing. Hu sheep lambskins are traditional export item of Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.
The first estruses in ewes occur at the age of 4-5 months. Rams are capable of mating at the age of 4 months. Ewes cycle all year round. The average ovulation rate is 2.38 with higher ovulation rate of 2.60 in autumn and lower rate of 2.2 in spring. Under normal conditions, ewes lamb twice a year with litter size 2-3 lambs in most cases, and 7-8 lambs occasionally.
Chen Ruihe1, Xia Yin2, and Wang Xingsheng3
1. Chen Ruihe, Professor of Animal Science, Nanjing Agricultural University (China); 2. Xia Yin, University of New England (Australia)
3. Wang Xingsheng, Nanjing Agricultural University (China)
Pan X., Lu B.G. and Kong P.L. Jiangsu livestock and poultry breeds (Chinese). Jiangsu Scientific and Technical Publishers, Nanjing, China, 1987, pp.66-69
Feng W., Ma Y., Zhang Z. and Zhou D. Prolific breeds of China (English). In: Prolific Sheep, M.H.Fahmy(eds) CAB International, UK. 1996, ppl46-151
Chen R. The production of Hu sheep (Chinese). Shanghai Science and Technology Publisher, Shanghai, 1984, pp. 1-2