The Coburg fox sheep is a medium-sized breed, with a withers height of 60-70 centimeters. Dams (mother sheep) weigh 50-65 kilograms and rams 80-90kg. The fleece has a reddish shimmer and the legs and narrow head are covered in short, reddish-brown fur. This breed is hornless and characterized by a Roman nose and slightly protruding ears. Dams easily bear one to two lambs and exhibit good mothering behavior. This robust and frugal breed feeds on wild grasses from lean soils. It is very suitable for landscape conservation (grazing with mobile fences, for example in orchards and vineyards), and can be raised in migratory herds or in paddocks.
At the beginning of the 20th century, 60% of the sheep population in the province of Coburg were fox sheep, but the national law for animal breeding under the National Socialists aimed at purebred breeding and thus almost exterminated the breed. The Coburg fox sheep was saved by a cloth maker who used this breed’s wool to make tweed fabric. Even so, the Coburg fox sheep could not compete with other sheep breeds specialized for wool, milk, or meat production. Although there were around 5,000 Coburg fox sheep in 2018, more than for many other endangered sheep breeds, the rate of inbreeding is high. The Society for the Conservation of Old and Endangered Breeds, or GEH (Gesellschaft zur Erhaltung alter und gefährdeter Haustierrassen e.V.), classifies the Coburger fox sheep in the early warning stage. The State of Bavaria supports breeders with an annual premium of €25 per herdbook animal. Professional support for breeders in Bavaria is provided by the Bavarian Herdbook Society for Sheep Breeding. Forty-eight farms with Coburg fox sheep, mostly from Franconia, are members. In 2018, the Bavarian herdbook lists 1,851 dams and 80 rams.
Breeders sell live animals directly to each other and also to other interested parties. Breeding rams are traded at auctions. Coburg fox sheep meat is similar to venison in that it is delicate, fine-grained, and tender. The growing consumer movement is boosting demand for this regional specialty, but the meat is still almost exclusively marketed directly by sheep farmers, to private individuals and interested restaurateurs.