The Texel originated on the Isle of Texel off the coast of The Netherlands
early in the nineteenth century. The original Old Texel was probably
a short-tailed variety of sheep. Limited importations of Lincoln
and Leicester Longwool were crossed with this stock during the mid-1800's.
The characteristics of the breed were established early on through
a series of local showing competitions on the island. The emphasis
was on a sheep that would produce heavily muscled lambs of superior
eating quality. Since the primary market for these lambs was Continental
Europe where excess fat on meat cuts has always been unpopular,
significant effort was also made to produce a sheep that had a low
propensity for fat deposition.
The Texel breed today is a white-faced breed with no wool on the
head or legs. The breed is characterized by a distinctive short,
wide face with a black nose and widely placed, short ears with a
nearly horizontal carriage. These sheep also have black hooves.
The wool is of medium grade (46's-56's) with no black fibers. Mature
animals shear fleece weights of 3.5-5.5 kg.
The most outstanding feature of the Texel breed, however, is its
remarkable muscle development and leaness. Research results from
Clay Center and the University of Wisconsin indicate that Texel-sired
lambs typically have a 6-10% advantage in loin-eye area when compared
to American black-face-sired lambs. (In fact, many Texel breeders
routinely scan loin-eyes as a selection tool and are finding 4+
square inches to be quite common with 5 square inch eyes appearing
fairly often.) Texel-sired lambs also show an advantage of one full
leg score in these comparisons and less total carcass fat-especially
seam fat. This is significant in that seam fat is much harder to
trim manually during fabrication than are subcutaneous and internal
fat deposits. Curiously, even though Texel lambs in these trials
grew slightly slower than the black-faced lambs, their feed efficiency
was better. In a trial comparing Texel ram lambs to black-faced
ram lambs, the Texels required about 15# less feed to produce 60#
The Texel has become the dominant terminal-sire breed in Europe.
It is currently nearly equal to the Suffolk in market-share in Ireland
and gaining fast. The breed is also gaining in popularity in Australia
and New Zealand as their production systems have shifted away from
primary emphasis on wool to greater emphasis on lamb meat production.