Abstract Background The cyclic adenosine-monophosphate (cAMP) pathway is generally recognized as one of the essential pathways for the adipose conversion of rodent preadipocytes in vitro. However, divergent effects of cAMP on adipocyte differentiation have also been reported. Since there is very little data on non-rodent preadipose cells, the aim of the present work was to analyze the effects of one classic activator (dbcAMP) of the cAMP pathway on the proliferation and differentiation of sheep preadipocytes grown. Method We retrospectively analyzed the regulation of dbcAMP on the proliferation and differentiation of sheep preadipocytes through observation on cell dynamic morphology, drawing on the growth curve, Oil Red O staining and induction of cell differentiation. Results 1) During first 5 days of treatment, at lower levels of dbcAMP (1 nmol/L to 1 × 104 nmol/L), sheep cells were not increased, but at higher levels (1 × 105 nmol/l to 1 × 106 nmol/l), they were significantly increased (P 0.05); 3) treated for 4 days, dbcAMP at the levels of 1 nmol/L, 1 × 104 nmol/L and 1 × 106 nmol/L increased C20:0 abundance (P 0.05), but expression of HSL mRNA increased at the level of 1 × 106 nmol/L dbcAMP (P < 0.05). Conclusion This study demonstrated that the mechanisms by which of the cAMP pathway affects on preadipocytes between sheep and rodent animals was different.