The breed was developed in South Africa in the 1930's by crossing Blackhead Persian ewes with a Dorset Horn ram. They were bred to produce a high quality carcass under extensive conditions. The Blackhead Persian was selected for its non-selective grazing, coat shedding, hardiness and good mothering abilities. The Dorset Horn was selected for its rapid growth rates and carcass attributes.
The Breeding program resulted in the development of the black headed and white headed Dorper. Successive Dorper breeding has shown it to be a fixed breed type, giving a reliable reproduction of features and characteristics. It is now numerically the second to largest sheep breed in South Africa.
The breed was introduced into Australia in 1996 and has the potential to be developed for domestic and export meat markets.
The animal is characteristically barrel shaped with short, dullish black or white hair on the head. A short, loose light covering of hair and wool (wool predominating on the forequarter) with a natural clean kemp underline, is a typical breed standard.
An even distribution of a thin layer of fat compliments the breed.
The Dorper sheds its fleece avoiding the need for mustering for shearing, crutching and fly control.
There is little difference between blackheaded and whiteheaded Dorpers - the choice is a matter of target market preference.