Seasonal weight loss (SWL) is the most pressing constraint in ruminant production systems in tropical climates. SWL is controlled using supplementation, which is costly and difficult to implement in extensive systems, or using breeds adapted to tropical hot dry climates, like the Damara and Dorper. Albeit 15 years in Australia, little is known on how these sheep compare to Australian Merino. Here, the responses of the Damara, Dorper and Merino breeds to nutritional stress were compared. Seventy-two 6-month-old ram lambs, 24 from each breed, were allocated to growth (gaining 100 g/day) or restricted diets (losing 100 g/day, 85 % of maintenance needs). Animals were weighed and carcass and meat characteristics determined. Results point out to the existence of important differences between the three genotypes, in particular between the Merino and the Southern African breeds. Additionally, Merino ram lambs seem to have been more influenced by SWL than the other two, with consequences on meat characteristics. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.