Sheep breeds

Béliers Charollais
Béliers Charollais - Crédit : OS Mouton Charollais
Summary of the article

 Traits and performances

Charollais sheep can be found throughout France, with a particularly high concentration in Bourgogne, the Massif Central, Poitou-Charentes, the Limousin and the south-west.

The breed has spread far beyond its native region thanks to a combination of maternal abilities and meat production qualities. The Charollais sheep is bred free-range or semi-free range, with mating primarily in the autumn. The breed also makes it possible to raise lambs through grass-grazing.

Early maturity and ewe prolificacy are completed by high suckling abilities: ewes can thus suckle their lambs without difficulty, 80% of twin births being raised together.

The rapid growth rate of the Charollais allows farmers to produce heavy lambs with carcasses free of excess fat. Furthermore, the fine-boned structure and conformation of the lambs make the Charollais a prime meat-producing sheep.

These meat production traits explain the broad use made of Charollais rams for terminal crossbreeding, both nationally and internationally. Rams are currently propagated in more than 20 countries. The Charollais breed thus represents 40 to 50% of French sheep genetic material exports.


Breed selection objectives are to further meat production traits (growth, conformation, carcass quality, fattening) while preserving its maternal qualities (early maturity, fertility, prolificacy, suckling abilities) which are remarkable for a meat-breed.

Scrapie resistance is also a criterion considered in sires’ choice. The breed has its own ram progeny control station at Insémovin, which enables progeny testing of the 14 best rams selected from the 180 rams controlled in individual on-station testing center.

Sire propagation in France or abroad is carried out both through natural servicing and artificial insemination.


Key figures

  • 225,000 ewes
  • 117 flocks under official performance recording system
  • 7,541 ewes under on-farm official performance recording system
  • 49,664 artificial inseminations
  • Adult ewe weight:
    80 to 95 kg
  • Adult ram weight:
    110 to 170 kg
  • Prolificacy after natural estrus: 1.8
  • 30-day weight (singleton male): 15.9 kg
  • 70-day weight (singleton male): 30.1 kg
  • Average Daily Gain 30-70 days (singleton male): 351 g

Results of on-farm performance recording system 2014 - Institut de l’Elevage & Races de France