Classifying Market Sheep Back »

Written by Hilary Rossow (former SDSU Extension State 4-H Animal Projects Coordinator).

4-H Market Sheep Division Updates

The 4-H Market Sheep division at the South Dakota State Fair has a new look. Instead of only three lots (white-faced meat-type, black-/speckled-face meat-type, and wool-type), the show has been expanded to include breeds and crossbred classifications. Since it is impractical to require registration papers for these lambs, a classifying system has been adopted to sort lambs into lots.

Lamb Classification

All lambs will be classified during check-in at the State Fair, but for reasons pertaining to entry and youth development, families and youth are asked to self-classify their lambs on the Ownership Verification Affidavit.

Exhibitors may show more than 2 Crossbred lambs, if they are classified differently than they are entered.

Example: an exhibitor enters what he believes are 1 Hampshire, 2 Speckle-face, and 2 Crossbred lambs. The classifiers determine he has 3 Speckle-face lambs. One of those that classified Speckle-face may be shown in the Crossbred division along with the 2 other Crossbred lambs.

Lot Descriptions

Below is a description of each lot along with disqualifying characteristics. It is expected that all sheep be presented in their natural states and artificial enhancements, including painting, are prohibited.


Description: Solid white. The head should display a moderate wool cap and small ears free of wool. Ears are to be short and free of silky covering.

Three of the following will result in Crossbred classification:

  • Any dark colored spots in the hair or wool
  • Dark colored septum - dividing the tissue between the nostrils
  • Solid black hooves, streaking is acceptable
  • Large, drooping ears
  • Absence of hair covering in typical areas
  • Fine textured or silky hair covering


Description: The head should display a moderately broad muzzle, with short ears that are free of wool. The wool cap should be prominent and MUST extend and connect from the neck to the base of the poll. Wool should be present on the legs enough to signify Hampshire character

One of the following will result in Crossbred classification:

  • Excessive dark or blue hide
  • Broken wool cap or inadequate wool covering on head and legs.
  • Horns or solid scurs
  • Speckled face or any spots on jaw, cheeks, or muzzle larger than a dime.

Natural Colored

Description: At least 50% of the lamb’s fleece must be made up of fibers that are of a color other than white, excluding the hair on the lamb’s face and legs. Otherwise they will be shown in the crossbred division


Description: The hair on the muzzle should be gray to brown in color. The tip of the nose should be black, but blue to purple is acceptable. The ears should be short and thick with wool; slick ears are undesirable.

One of the following will result in Crossbred classification:

  • Tip of the nose has no pigment (white/pink)
  • Excessive white speckle markings on face legs.
  • Horns or solid scurs
  • Excessive black or dark brown on face, ears, and legs (including wool)
  • Steep hip or tendency to show callipyge (double-muscling) characteristics
  • Solid black lambs

Three of the following will result in Crossbred classification:

  • Solid black or very dark color throughout the muzzle and/or legs
  • Pink, white, or striped hooves
  • Excessive white on face, ears, or legs
  • Completely slick ears
  • Open poll/no wool on the head

Speckle Face

Description: Designed for lambs whose genetic make up is 50% white face and 50% black face. Speckles must comprise at least a 1/3 white on the face as well as the legs.


Description: The hair on the head and legs should be black and free of wool. The ears should be long and bell-shaped. Small amounts of dark fiber in the fleece is permitted; lambs with more than 10% dark fiber must be shown in the crossbred or natural color divisions.

One of the following will result in Crossbred classification:

  • Hair must be black in color not brown
  • Wool on the legs
  • Excessive black fiber in the fleece areas
  • White speckles or splotches on the belly, inner legs, neck, or jaw
  • Horns or solid scurs

Any Other Breeds

Description: Class designed for hair breeds and meat breeds not listed above.

Wool Breeds

Description: Class designed for wool breeds, thus criteria for breed character will be based the particular wool breed being exhibited. Lambs are not to be crossed with meat breeds.


Description: Class designed for any lambs with disqualifying characteristics in the above categories.

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