Origin & History

Bred from the Past for the Future

Established over 100 years ago in Australia, the Polwarth is now proving its value as the ultimate dual purpose breed. With its origins of Saxon Merino rams and Lincoln ewes, and later through selected breeding for both wool type, fertility, and meat production, the Polwarth is the breed for today’s farming and economic environment.

Since the original Polwarths were imported into Canterbury (New Zealand), in 1932, they are now established in a range of climates throughout the country. They thrive in a mix of hot and cold temperatures, with low to high rainfall, either hill and high country, or lowland environments. Truly one of the most versatile breeds available, with one of the highest returns possible from one single breed.

Polwarth Ram © Graham Meadows Photography
Polwarth Ram © Graham Meadows Photography

Breed Description

Conformation, wool, and meat production are the cornerstones of sheep farming. To get these attributes in one breed is outstanding – and profitable.

Key Features
  • Upstanding with big boned, framy, barrel shape
  • Excellent carcass returns through good eye muscling and less fat. GR average range 3-6
  • Ultra white wool of 23-25 micron (58-60’s count), with excellent length, crimp and yield
Breed Development

Through selective breeding both in Australia and New Zealand, the Polwarth Breed is superior to other mid micron breeds.

Due to the genetic stability dominant in Polwarths, the dual purpose characteristics can be maintained within a range of climatic conditions. This is important to farmers wanting to change sheep farming practices for increased farm returns without changing locations. The ability of the breed to adapt and yet retain characteristics is key to the future of the Polwarth breed over other meat and wool types.

Higher wool returns, through length, whiteness, yield and micron coupled with high fertility, survivability and the ability to do well in a mixed climate are heritable breed characteristics. Proven results both financially and in competitions, offer farmers an incentive to introduce Polwarth genetics into their farming programmes. The financial results can be outstanding.

Polwarth Fertility and Performance
  • All year breeding
  • 60% multiple births can be achieved with minimum flushing
  • Ability to retain body weights under extreme conditions
  • Good mothering ability with high lamb survival rate
  • Scanning: 140%-160% is normal
  • Free lambing with narrow shouldered lambs
  • No bearing problems
  • Ability to rear twins to high finishing weights, and for use as replacement ewes
  • Lambs finished at 15+ kg in Y Grades
  • Late cutting of teeth up to 16 months
Polwarth Hoggets
Polwarth Hoggets

Polwarths can adapt to a range of climatic and regional conditions, from the extreme heat and dry of Central Otago, Wairarapa, Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay, to the wetter regions of the Canterbury, Ruahine and Kaikoura ranges.

High wool quality weights, sound feet, and the ability to produce good lambs, can all be maintained, irrespective of climate, through the genetic hereditability of Polwarths. A true dual purpose breed.


Polwarth Wool is desirable for its fine qualities combined with its strength and length for blending and spinning of fine knitting wools and worsted manufacture. There is a world shortage of Polwarth style wools and demand creates price stability and excellent returns.

The progeny either for lamb finishing, live export or flock and stud replacement, offers a range of options to capitalise on seasonal and market variables.

Breed Potential

Through the introduction of Polwarth genetics to halfbred, quarterbred and more product specific breeds, (either wool or meat), the future revenue from traditional flocks can be vastly improved.

Specific contracts for Polwarth Wool from spinners and weavers worldwide is now ensuring a steady demand for this type of wool. Contract pricing for well prepared wools that comply with the highest international standards are offering farmers the opportunity to take more control of their future earning potential at the farm gate.

Dual purpose sheep take the worry out of seasonal pricing fluctuations between meat and wool, through a better wool product, together with quality meat and high performing progeny.

Polwarth Ewe with lambs
Polwarth Ewe with lambs

Bred for over 100 years for today’s farming environment and beyond

Breed Classification

Polwarth Breed Classification

A medium-sized, fine-woolled, hardy breed. A dual-purpose breed with a major emphasis on wool production. Rams are used for cross-breeding to ‘fine down’ flocks that have coarser wool, and to increase staple length, crimp and quality in other breeds.

Bodyweight Wool

Ewes: 50-60 kg (110-132 lb)

Rams: 66-80 kg (146-176 lb)

General Characteristics

  • Fleece 23-25 micron (58-60's)
  • Dense, white fleece 5-7 inches with distinct length to micron ratio
  • Full fleece at 8 months due to extra growing length
  • Fibre tensile strength tests (38-45 N/Ktex)
  • Micron stability through dominant genetics
  • 5kg + fleeces
  • esistance to fleece rot in 600-2000mm rainfall areas
  • Soft handling with good crimp and excellent yield and a locky structure
  • Low prickle factor

Ram Example - 8 month Fleece
(at 12 months of age after shearing as a lamb at 4 months)

  • Greasy Fleece weight - 5.5kg
  • Yield - 74.2%
  • Clean FW. - 4.1kg
  • Micron - 22.3
  • Coefficient of Variation of micron - 20.8%
  • Spinning Fineness - 21.7

General Characteristics

  • Reduced fat cover
  • Good eye muscling in width, depth and area
  • Early maturity
  • GR rating 3-6 average

Ram Example - scanned at 18 months

  • 81 kg liveweight
  • Eye muscle depth - 37mm
  • Eye muscle width - 83mm
  • Eye muscle area - 23.64
  • Fat depth - 7mm

Can be bred at any time of the year. Easy carefree lambing with very good mothering instinct.

100-120 percent.

About 160,000