The Ladoum – Senegal’s Star Sheep Can Cost More Than a Car

The Ladoum sheep, known as the “king of sheep” in Senegal, is considered a mark of prestige and a status symbol in the African country, with prices for top specimens exceeding $85,000.

A hybrid of the Mauritanian ‘Touabire’ breed and the Malian ‘Bali-bali’, the Ladoum was first bred outside Senegal’s capital of Dakar in the early 1970s. For such a young breed, the Ladoum is incredibly popular in the West-African nation, with well-off families and breeders spending small fortunes on a specimen, and those who can’t afford one dreaming of one day having enough money to buy it. To understand just how revered the Ladoum is, in a country where about 40 percent of the population lives on $1.90 per day, some people spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single sheep.

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There is no denying the physical qualities of Ladoum sheep. They are giants of their species, reaching heights of 1.2 meters at the shoulders and weights of 385 lbs (175 kg), have smooth coats and long, curly horns, and their meat reportedly tastes delicious. The vast majority of Senegalese consider them beautiful, majestic even, so they watch Ladoum sheep beauty pageants on TV and follow popular breeders on social media just to admire their flocks.

“Above everything else in Senegal, we love beautiful beasts,” top breeder Abou Kane said. “The Ladoum is both big and beautiful. It is the rarity of this breed that makes it so expensive and profitable. This breed is rare and highly prized, and anything that is rare in the world is expensive.”


Although the Ladoum has been around for about half a century, breeders only started refining the breed over the past 20 years, accentuating its proportions and physical beauty. Their work paid off, as the Ladoum is now considered more than a sheep. It is a status symbol, one that everyone recognizes as more important than cars, houses or expensive clothes.

“Owning a Ladoum differentiates you from other people,” chef Fatou Sen told Quartz Africa. “When my children see someone with a big sheep, they know that this is a very important person. Ladoums are for the stars, not ordinary people.”


NBA basketball player Gorgui Dieng is known for having a flock of Ladoum, as is Yékini, the greatest Senegalese wrestler of all time. On the other hand, Senegal’s poor can only dream of owning their own king of sheep, as the Ladoum is known in West Africa, let alone sacrificing one for Eid-al-Adha.

95% of Senegal’s population is Muslim, and the tradition of sacrificing sheep for Eid is a very big deal, one that has contributed to the Ladoum’s popularity. Large families can sacrifice over 10 sheep to celebrate Eid, and having those be precious Ladoum is considered significant.


“When we sacrifice something for God, we must sacrifice something we love,” Abou Kane explains. That said, the truly expensive Ladoum sheep, those with the best physical qualities, are never sacrificed. They are instead pampered and traded for breeding purposes.

This year, the price of Ladoum sheep surpassed $85,000, and even though you can find scrawnier specimens for as low as $3,000, the breed is definitely too expensive for the majority of Senegalese who have to settle for admiring the sheep from a distance.

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