Texel sheep are a breed of domestic sheep that originated from the Isle of Texel off the coast of the Netherlands in the early part of the 19th century. The sheep are known for their highly prized, distinctive features, which include a muscular build and a white face. The sheep made their debut in a series of livestock competitions that were held during the 19th century on the Dutch island. The standards used for these competitions are still in effect today.
During the 1800s, two different types of sheep, the Lincoln and the Leicester Longwool, were crossbred with the Texel. This was done in an effort to produce lambs that would be more muscular. It was thought that this process would create a type of meat that was superior to the meat of other types of lamb. This combination was also thought to produce a sheep that was less likely to store fat on its body, which in turn would provide a better, less fatty cut of meat.
The Texel sheep that are commonly raised today still carry the muscular characteristics of their ancestors. They are easily distinguished by their white faces, black noses and lack of wool on their heads or legs. There are actually many different kinds of Texel sheep, such as, Dutch, English and French. They are all quite similar in their muscular build, but may have slight variations in characteristics. The English Texel sheep, for example, is typically taller than other Texel, while the Dutch Texel is usually shorter, but more muscular.
While the breed of the Texel sheep may vary, the judging standards for competition remain the same. Legs and heads must be free of wool, the noses and hooves must be black and the fleece must be white. Texel sheep should be of medium size and their bodies should be balanced and well-muscled overall.
Although the Texel are the dominant terminal-sire breed of sheep in Europe, they are still relatively new to the Unites States. They have only been in the country since 1985 and were quarantined for five years before breeders were allowed to begin purchasing them in 1990. Texel sheep are also becoming more popular in Australia and New Zealand, as interests have shifted away from wool production and toward lamb meat production.