The Drenthe Heath is the oldest sheep breed of the Western Europe continent. Approximately 4000 BC the first Drenthe Heath sheep came to Drenthe (a province in the northeast Netherlands). They probably came with emigrants from France.
The Drenthe Heath is multicoloured black, red, brown and white, with wool being mostly white, while the head is reddish-brown and black. Animals may also be spotted. Both sexes have horns, but there is a rare occurrence of polled animals. The Drenthe Heath can easily live on poor heathland. The Drenthe Heath is managed with transhumance with local grazing throughout the year. Ewes typically produce one lamb at a time. The Drenthe Heath is mainly used for conservation grazing and meat, although wool products are also valuable.
In more fertile regions of Drenthe a more productive breed was kept: the Schoonebeek Heath sheep. The Schoonebeek turned out to be economically more interesting than old heath sheep breeds by the time fertilizers were introduced. Because of the fertilizers, the poor heathland became more fertile and the Schoonebeek is more productive than the old heath sheep breeds, because it is slightly bigger and a well-meated sheep. However, by now, the Schoonebeek is displaced by other modern breeds that are again more productive.
The Schoonebeek is multicoloured, black, brown, yellow and white, with black spots including on the head. They may be unicoloured brownish black as well. They have a long tail and are polled. The Schoonebeek is managed by transhumance, adapted to extensive conditions, with total grazing. Historically, the Schoonebeek were used for the management of heath fields and production of manure. Now, the breed is mainly used for conservation grazing, although meat and wool products are also valuable. In comparison to the Dutch Texel the Schoonebeek is higher in wool fibre thickness.