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Arles Merino   French   EFABIS Data


International Name

Arles Merino

Local Name

Merinos d’Arles


Alpes and Corse

Breeding females



Trend of population size


Flock book established



Origin – history

After an introduction of Spanish Merino, based in the old imperial sheepfolds of Perpignan and Arles, in the 18th Century, systematic crossings (about 10% per annum) during the 1920s and continuing until the beginning of the 1940s were performed with Mérinos du Chatillonnais (Merinos Précoce), to improve the wool production and formation. There have been other small inputs (1-3%) from Est a Laine Merinos and Boorola (Australian) in the last thirty years. The breed has also been exported to Spain, eastern Europe and north Africa on a large scale, and some animals have been exported to Asia. The breed now keeps 75% of its ewes as pure-bred.


Breed description

The Arles Merino breed is raised using transhumance, alternating the summer mountain pastures with pastures on the plains (La Crau area) in winter, where the animals are put out to pasture every day. Transhumance may also incorporate a semi-mountainous area allowing for a transition between the two locations. Mating principally takes place before the animals make the ascent to high mountain pastures. However, rams perform “return” mating when the animals come down from the mountains. There are also variations to this procedure, involving more frequent lambing (through further mating in the autumn), ewes achieving a fecundity rate of 1.2. The lambs are sold at various ages, either as suckler-lambs (very localised farming) or as fattening lambs. The latter are often taken to high mountain pastures and then sold on their return. A whole range of intermediate systems also exists.
The sheep are white, usually only the males having horns, which are rolled and spiralled, although small horns may be present on either sex. They have good fleece coverage, with the legs free from fleece. The mature rams weigh 70-90kg, and the ewes weigh 40-60kg.

Conservation activities

Various products are derived from these farming systems, and the high-quality wool only accounts for a small proportion of the economic income. The principal selection objectives for the Arles Mérino breed are the milk value of the ewes and the growth of the lambs. Rams for artificial insemination are chosen in order to preserve the fineness of the wool, as well as maintaining the out of season breeding capacity, a much-prized quality.


Contact: UPRA Merinos d'Arles 64, bd Louis Pasquet 13 300 Salon de Provence

Action Heritage Sheep AGRI GEN RES 040 receives financial support from the European Commission, Genetic Resources in Agriculture, under European Commission Council Regulation (EC) No 870/2004 AGRI GEN RES 2006 HERITAGE SHEEP