The Suffolk breed originated in England and was the result of crossing Southdown rams on Norfolk Horned ewes. The Suffolk breed was recognized as early as 1810.
In 1886, the English Suffolk Society was organized to provide registry service and to further develop the use of the breed. Through selection and careful breeding by many great English sheep men, the Suffolk brought to this country retained the qualities for which they were originally mated.
The breed expanded rapidly, with the first flock in Ireland established in 1891, in 1895 in Scotland and 1901 in Wales. From the earliest days sheep were exported around the world, to Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, Russia and North and South America.
Originally renowned as a producer of mutton, the breed has developed over the years to match consumer demands. Suffolks are now found throughout the world's sheep producing countries. They are the flag-ship breed in the British Isles and recognized as the leading terminal sire on a variety of ewes to produce top quality prime lamb.
Mature weights for Suffolk rams range from 250 to 350 pounds (113-159 kg), ewe weights vary from 180 to 250 pounds (81-113 kg). Fleece weights from mature ewes are between five and eight pounds (2.25-3.6 kg) with a yield of 50 to 62 percent. The fleeces are considered medium wool type with a fiber diameter of 25.5 to 33.0 microns and a spinning count of 48 to 58. The staple length of Suffolk Fleece ranges from 2 to 3.5 inches (5-6.75 cm).
The Cheviot originated in the Cheviot Hills, on the border of England and Scotland as early as 1372. Introduced to Australia in 1938, the Cheviot has proved its ability to withstand the cold, wet Winters of Southern Australia, and is a vigorous forager through the hot, dry summers, when feed is scarce. The breed was introduced into the United States in 1838 from their native Scotland.
The Cheviot breed has been produced by selection rather than cross breeding two existing breeds, making it a pure breed.
The modern Cheviot is a mutton sheep and is definitely one of the smaller breeds but has a distinctive appearance. It has a high carriage of the head and a quick coordinated stride. Its ears are carried high, erect and forward. There is no wool on the head, face in front of the ears or below the knees and hocks.
Rams in good condition mature at 160 to 200 pounds and ewes mature from 130 to 170 pounds. Mature ewes will average a five to ten pound (2.25-4.5 kg) fleece that has a micron measurement of 27.0 - 33.0 and a spinning count of 48-56. The staple length of the fleece will be three to five inches (7.5-12 cm) with a yield of 50 to 75 percent.
Cheviots are note for their hardiness, longevity, productiveness, and milking and mothering abilities. They produce a high quality carcass that is highly lean. They are able to utilize rough, low producing hill country very profitably.
Named after the Yorkshire valley of Swaledale, the Swaledale breed is found throughout the more mountainous areas of Great Britain, but particularly in County Durham, Yorkshire, and the lower fells of Cumbria. There are about 1,200 flocks of pedigree Swaledale sheep in the United Kingdom.
Swaledale sheep are said to be a bold and hardy sheep, designed to endure hardships of exposure and high lying situations. Well suited to the exposed regions in which they predominantly live, the Swaledales are hardy, thick coated, able bodied, and bold.
The ewes make excellent mothers and are known for being able to rear lambs well, despite their adverse living conditions. They are of a medium build, with black faces, marked with white, and both males and females grow curled horns.
Swaledale sheep are strong feeders and maintain their health. Their mutton has good flavour and tenderness, and some flocks are reared exclusively as meat producers.
The wool is white with a thick deep bed and curly top of medium length. Wool quality is more durable in wear and of even texture. It’s strong and durable properties make it suitable for carpets, rugs, and insulation. However, the wool is also used for spinning and knitting of clothing, though on a lesser scale to its other uses.
The Merino breed of fine-wool sheep originating in Spain and was known as early as the 12th century. According to historians, the Merino industry was so valuable that the penalty for exporting the sheep was death. After the Peninsular campaign of the Napoleonic wars disrupted Spanish society in 1807–14, the wool industry declined and Merinos spread throughout Europe, North America and Australia.
The Merino breed is particularly well adapted to semiarid climates and to nomadic pasturing. However, as the breed moved around the world, farmers soon discovered that Merinos were prone to foot rot in warm moist conditions. Foot rot infects the tissue inside the hoof. Infection can result in weight loss, reduced productivity and death.
For centuries, Merinos had been bred only for their wool, without considering meat production. The animals are lean and slow to mature, less unsuitable for producing meat, compared with British breeds.
Merinos vary considerably in size, conformation, and extent of skin folds, but the prevailing trend in breeding is to develop sheep of medium size, with fair mutton conformation and a minimum of skin folds. The color of their faces and legs is white.
Although they have a considerable growth of wool on their faces, it is seldom extensive enough to cause wool blindness. The fine wool fibers of fleeces are beautifully crimped.
Through selective mating and crossing with other breeds, the Merino has served extensively as foundation stock in the creation of many useful breeds and strains of sheep.
Black Welsh Mountain
In the Middle Ages, the mutton of black-fleeced Welsh Mountain Sheep was prized for its richness and excellence. The black wool, known as Cochddu (reddish brown) was much sought-after by merchants. During the mid-19th century some breeders began to select specifically for the black fleece color and the result is the Black Welsh Mountain sheep. Flocks of the pure breed are now widely distributed throughout the United Kingdom, with flocks also in Ireland and the US.
The Black Welsh Mountain is a small, black sheep with no wool on the face or on the legs below the knee and hock. The rams are typically horned and the females are polled (hornless).
Although it is bred today perhaps as much for decorative value as for its commercial importance, it nevertheless grows wool which is sufficiently fine, soft and densely stapled to be regarded as a specialty type and the fleece is used to good effect in combination with other wools.
Average fleece weight = 2.5 - 4 pounds.
Staple length = 8-10 cm
Spinning count = 48's-56's.
Lambing percentages = 175 - 200%.
In addition, the Black Welsh Mountain exhibits resistance to both fly attack and foot infections. They also have good soundness in the feet and legs.
Sources indicate a premium quality meat is obtained from the Black Welsh Mountain with close grain, light bone and a favorable meat to bone ratio. The small popular cuts are full of succulent lean and with minimum of wasteful fat.
The ewes have natural maternal qualities and milky, dedicated mothers. The new-born lambs are fast to their feet, quick to suckle and grow rapidly. Few breeds are more trouble-free at lambing time.
Hardiness and self-reliance are two outstanding features of the Breed. Many Black Welsh Mountain hill flocks taste no other food than short, upland grass yet they adapt well to improved, lowland management and feeding. As profitable scavengers of rough, unplowable land and for parkland herbage control they stand second to none.
Hampshire Down flocks were established more than 150 years ago. The breed originated by crossing the Wiltshire Horn and the Berkshire Knot with the Southdown and were numerous across the whole of the South of England. Now Hampshire Downs are found in over 40 countries.
Face and ears are a rich dark brown, approaching black, with wool over the poll and forehead. Wool is white with an average staple length. Body deep and symmetrical with ribs well sprung, broad, straight back, flat loins, wide rump and deep heavily muscled hind legs and breast. Legs being strongly jointed and powerful are set well apart.
The breed has been developed to provide terminal sires for commercial flocks. Hampshire Down sired lambs are early maturing quality butchers’ lambs.
Hampshire Downs lamb naturally in December with a lambing percentage of around 150-180%. The lambs are very robust and hardy being able to withstand most climatic conditions from a very early age. They are extensively kept both on pastures and uplands and will finish on grass quickly with no concentrates. From birth a Hampshire Down crossbred lamb will reach 18 kg deadweight in under three months.
The ewes last well and regularly lamb for up to 10 or 12 years. Hampshire Downs will take the ram at any time of the year, therefore three crops of lambs can be obtained in two years. One of the most important characteristics is outstanding food conversion which enables it to survive well in marginal grass conditions. Other characteristics are multiple births, weight per age, face covering, refinement about the head and shoulders, muscling and freedom from unsoundness.
Hampshire Down wool is white, average staple length 9cm, dense and fine texture, being graded to 56-60’s (Bradford count). Rams clip about 6.75kg, yearling ewes 4.5kg and older ewes 2.7kg of wool. The principal use is for fine felts and blending with other wools owing to its good wearing quality.
The Icelandic sheep is one of the world's oldest and purest breeds of sheep. Throughout its 1100 years of history, the Icelandic breed has been truly triple-purpose, treasured for its meat, fiber and milk.
The Icelandic breed is in the North European short-tailed group of sheep, which exhibits a fluke-shaped, naturally short tail. To ensure the continuing purity of the breed, tail docking an Icelandic will disqualify it from being registered in North America.
Icelandics are a mid-sized breed with ewes averaging 130-160 pounds, and rams averaging 180-220 pounds. Conformation is generally short legged and stocky. The face and legs are free of wool. The fleece is dual-coated and comes in white as well as a range of browns, grays and blacks. There are both horned and polled strains. Left unshorn for the winter, the breed is very cold hardy.
A gene has been found in the Icelandic breed that causes multiple births of triplets, quads, quints and even sextuplets, if the ewe carries two copies of the gene. One copy of the gene causes a milder increase in fertility, resulting primarily in a higher rate of triplets. The Thoka gene, as it is called, is named after the first ewe known to carry the gene. It is similar to the Booroola gene in the Merino sheep.
Ewes are seasonal breeders, most coming into heat in late October. They will continue cycling until spring if not bred. Rams are sexually active year round, and the ram lambs can start breeding at 5-6 months.
Lambs mature early and ewe lambs commonly lamb at 11-12 months of age. Icelandic ewes are bred as lambs, and many remain productive until age 10 or longer.
Prolificacy is quite good, on average 175-220%. Triplets are not uncommon and many Icelandic ewes are very capable of nursing triplets without assistance.
Though famous throughout the world for wool production, the Icelandic breed is predominately grown for meat in Iceland. Since the cool and wet climate precludes the production of most grains in Iceland, the breed has been selected to bring the meat lambs to slaughter weight off of the summer and fall pastures.
Icelandic sheep produces a premium fleece. The fleece is dual coated, with a fine, soft undercoat called thel and a longer, coarser outer coat called tog. The tog fiber with a spinning count of 56-60 and a micron count of 27-30, grows to a length of 6-8" in six months. It is lustrous, strong, water- and wear-resistant, and sheds off the rain and weather.
Thel is the soft downy undercoat, with a spinning count of 64-70 and a micron count of 19-22, growing to a length of 2-4". The thel provides the loft for the outer coat and insulation for the sheep. Tog grows from the primary hair follicles and the thel from the secondary follicles. Tog is a true wool, and is not a kemp or guard hair. The combination of the two fibers on the sheep gives superb protection from the cold and wet.
In 1956 Perendales were bred by Sir Geoffrey Peren at Massey University by crossing a Cheviot over a Romney. The Perendale Sheep Society of New Zealand was formed in 1959 with the object of the advancement of this new and exciting sheep breed.
The Perendale breed is enjoying increasing popularity and the Society’s work now includes research, information sharing and marketing of the breed.
The Perendale is a sheep for all environments and is as successful on the hard hill country of the Wairarapa and Canterbury as on the fertile plains of Manawatu and Southland. The Perendale is rapidly replacing traditional breeds in the high country with great success.
The Perendale is an easy-care breed and will give your farming operation effortless lambing, good mothering and survival, plus excellent fertility with low losses from scanning to lambing. The lambs are easily finished to produce a lean, heavyweight carcass ideal for the chilled trade.
The Perendale was accepted as an established breed in Australia in 1975.
The original Romney Marsh sheep were developed on low lying land in Kent and Sussex, adjoining the English Channel. Its origin lies with the old, established dual purpose Romney Marsh breed which was improved with Leicester blood in the nineteenth century. The breed expanded over the rest of the South East of England and became known as Kent Sheep. It then spread all over the world and the name Romney came into general use.
Often swept with harsh winds and heavy rainfall, the Kent landscape is abundant with lush forage. This area has always been exposed and isolated, so that a hardy breed of sheep was produced requiring the minimum of attention. Romney have little interest in straying off and require a minimum of fencing.
The geographic and climatic conditions that Romney sheep have been raised in led to the development of some specific characteristics in the Romney breed. These traits include hooves that are resistant to foot rot and fleeces that remain healthy in harsh weather. Due to the similar land topography and weather conditions, the Romney breed made an easy transition to New Zealand and the Falkland Islands, where it became quickly established and still remains the predominant breed.
The sheep are excellent foragers spreading out and feeding widely and equally over the pastures. Their dense stocking rate gives a very high cash return per hectare. Despite being kept at high densities, the breed has a reputation for soundness of feet and good resistance to disease and worms.
Their excellent mothering traits and good meat conformation make them equally useful as both a sire and a dam breed. This durable, versatile sheep is not only a beautiful breed, but it is becoming increasingly known for its commercial qualities as a food producing animal with adequate growth rate and the type of heavy, lean carcasses demanded by the commercial trade. The Romney’s ability to mature on pasture, without putting on excessive fat, is helping to meet this demand.
The Romney, historically a dual purpose breed, remains so today, and is found in every type of farming environment. When handled properly, lambs from this versatile sheep can be creep fed until weaning, then turned out on pasture to mature, where they efficiently convert pasture into lean, high quality carcasses of heavy hanging weights that usually grade prime or choice. Romney meat is known for its delicate taste even in older lambs.
The Romney fleece is unique among all breeds in the way it combines several important traits. The fleece is lustrous; it hangs in separate locks, with minimal cross fibers between the locks. It is also high yielding and easily spun. Romney wool has the finest fiber diameter of all the longwool breeds; the spinning count may run from 50 to 44 (equivalent to about 29-36 microns).
Lincoln longwool sheep appear to have originated more than 5000 years ago in Lincolnshire in East Anglia, England. In fact, the Lincoln was probably the parent of all the longwool breeds in England.
Historically, the Lincoln Longwool is one of the most important English native breeds of sheep. A large dual-purpose breed developed to carry a heavy fleece of strong, lustrous, lanolin-rich wool combined with a substantial mutton carcass providing both meat and tallow. Lincolnshire was already famous for its sheep in the Middle Ages when the wool trade was crucial to Britain’s economy and Lincoln was one of the seven ‘staple’ official exporting towns of England.
The modern Lincoln, which evolved from crossing the original Lincoln with the English Leicester, is known to have been in existence about 1760. The improved Lincoln combined more quality meat with a higher quality of wool. Although the wool was of a finer diameter, it took dye very well and retained its strength for the combing and worsted spinning processes used at that time. It was this improved Lincoln that led to the accumulation of great wealth in Lincolnshire and surrounding counties for many decades.
In the latter 1800's, Lincoln breeding sheep were exported worldwide for upgrading local breeding stock. Breeds eventually developed by using Lincoln parents included Corriedale, Polwarth, Columbia, Bond, Armenian Semi-Course Wool, and Panama.
The Lincoln Longwool is an impressive, multi-purpose, heavily built, rugged, adaptable sheep with a calm and gentle disposition. The Lincoln yields a very long, lustrous, coarse, strong, wave common or braid fleece. The fleece is either white or colored. The colored fleece tends to be shaded in color with the darkest wool on the shoulders and legs and silver gray to black on the body.
The ideal white and colored Lincoln should have a broad-based head with wide set nostrils; an open face with a well-defined forelock. Masculine wrinkles on the head of the ram are acceptable. Ears not pointed, too forward or lopping. Solid black hooves. Specific to the white Lincoln: blue skinned ears, with dark spots on the back are desirable.
Wool: Distinctive, lightly yoked, uniform in wave or curl with loft, luster and density. Emphasis should be placed on uniformity. Strong, well-defined, braid-type crimp with braid no finer than low quarter (46s). Fast growing and heavy yielding by weight. The white Lincoln should be free of colored wool. A small black spot on lower leg is not a disqualification. More or larger black spots are objectionable. The colored Lincoln fleece is acceptable in any single color or variation of natural colors.
The Corriedale was developed in New Zealand and Australia during the late 1800s' from crossing Lincoln or Leicester rams with Merino females. The development of the breed occurred in New Zealand during the time from 1880 to 1910. While the expansion of the Corriedale breed in New Zealand is necessarily limited by the area of the country for which it is most suitable, its special characteristics make if perfect for many overseas conditions.
The breed is now distributed worldwide, making up the greatest population of all sheep in South America and thrives throughout Asia, North America and South Africa. Its popularity now suggests it is the second most significant breed in the world after Merinos. It is estimated that the number of Corriedales in the world exceeds 100,000,000. In South America alone, Corriedales account for some 70% of the sheep population.
The Corriedale is a dual-purpose sheep. It is large-framed, polled with good carcass quality. Although its role has traditionally been to produce premium lambs when mated to sires of meat breeds, the Corriedale is now achieving comparative performance rates with purebred lambs. This bonus together with a high skin value secures its future as a popular breed.
The Corriedale produces bulky, high-yielding wool ranging from 31.5 to 24.5 micron fiber diameter. The fleece from mature ewes will weigh from 10 to 17 pounds (4.5-7.7 kg) with a staple length of 3.5 to 6 inches (9-15 cm). The yield percent of the fleece ranges from 50 to 60 percent. Mature rams will weigh from 175 to 275 pounds (79-125 kg), ewe weights range from 130 to 180 pounds (59-81 kg).
Dorper is a South African mutton breed developed in the 1930's from the Dorset Horn and Blackheaded Persian. The breed was developed for the arid extensive regions of South Africa.
One of the most fertile of sheep breeds that is hornless with good body length and a short light covering of hair and wool. The breed has the characteristic black head (Dorper) as well as white heads (White Dorper). Furthermore the breed shows exceptional adaptability, hardiness, reproduction rates and growth (reaching 36 kg [~80 lbs] at three and a half to four months) as well as good mothering abilities.
The modern Dorper is numerically the second largest breed in South Africa with over 10 million head (more than one-third of the total sheep). The Dorper is popular in the Middle East, China, Canada, Australia, South America, Mexico and the US.
The Dorper is primarily a mutton sheep and meets these requirements exceptionally well. The breed is fertile and the percentage of ewes that become pregnant in one mating season is relatively high. Lambing intervals can be eight months. Consequently under good forage conditions and with good and with good management the Dorper ewe can lamb three times in two years.
The Dorper is well adapted to a variety of climatic and grazing conditions. Originally this breed was developed for the more arid areas of the Republic but today they are widely spread throughout all the provinces. The Dorper does well in various range and feeding conditions and reacts very favorably under intensive feeding conditions.Its skin covering which is a mixture of hair and wool, will drop off if not shorn to keep it tidy. The Dorper has a thick skin which is highly prized and protects the sheep under harsh climatic conditions. The Dorper skin is the most sought after sheepskin in the world and is marketed under the name of Cape Glovers.
The Texel sheep breed originated in Holland and is named after Texel Island off the North Sea coast of Holland. Crossed with Lincoln, Leicester and Wensleydales in the late 19th century the small native Texel breed developed into a large and prolific sheep which became popular for its well fleshed but lean carcass.
There are many different types of Texel across Europe and other continents, each developed to perform in their specific environment. The British Texel is a medium sized sheep with a long rectangular body, well-proportioned with a level back and medium bone structure. The Texel’s outstanding qualities are its pronounced muscling and long loin coupled with the unique leanness inherited from the original Texel sheep.
In pedigree terms the British Texel’s head should be covered with fine white hair, the nose preferably black with the occasional black spots on ears or eyelids. The body must be well proportioned with strong loins, a solid square stance and round well-developed gigots. The fleece has a high loft with a staple of medium length and is highly crinkled. Fibers are classed as medium, 34 microns and less.
The Texel is hardy, tough and docile. Ewes are frugal and proven to excel in grass-based rearing systems. Lambs are famously vigorous at birth with a great will to survive. The breed is moderately prolific with 1.7 lambs per ewe.
Because of the breed’s adaptability and excellent carcass quality, which it passes on to first cross progeny, Texel rams have become the UK producer’s preferred choice of Terminal Sire, in particular the increasing number of recorded rams, which deliver reliable performance in all environments. Changes in the growth potential of Texel sheep have been immense since the initial imports during the seventies enhancing both the efficiency and profitability of carcass production from Texel sired lambs.
The Texel breed is now excelling worldwide. France introduced Texels in 1933 and has the oldest flock book outside Holland. There is now a tremendous demand for Texels in Canada, United States, New Zealand and Australia.
One of the world’s most beautiful and rare sheep comes from the hills of the Cotswolds in England, less than 20 miles from the Welsh border. They are thought to be descended from a long wool introduced by the Romans in the first century A.D. This prototype sheep gave birth to the Cotswold, Lincoln and Leicester.
The Cotswold sheep is often referred to as the 'Cotswold Lion' and their wool, known as the 'Golden Fleece', was an important export. It not only played a major role in the development of many Cotswold towns and villages, but also in the finances of the UK. Now they are classified as a rare breed.
The Cotswold was well established by the 15th Century and the wealth obtained from these “gentle giants” paid for many of the great Cathedrals and churches in England, most notable Gloucester Cathedral. The word Cotswold stems from the wolds (hills) and cotes (enclosures) which housed the sheep in bad weather, hence the wolds of the sheep cotes. The Cotswold is a large, polled breed, with ewes weighing up to 200 pounds and rams 300 pounds. The ewes are excellent mothers, with few birthing problems and quick to accept lambs. They are a very friendly sheep and there is definitely a queenly quality about the ewes.
The meat has a very mild flavor and aroma. It has been proven that long wool sheep have a less muttony flavor than fine wooled breeds. Cotswolds are easy to raise and do well on coarser feeds and are excellent foragers and can thrive in harsh climates, even with a lot of rainfall.
The Soay have been called the only living example of the small, primitive sheep which inhabited the British Isles before the coming of the Norsemen and the Romans. These sheep were numerous before the time of the Roman occupation. Their name is derived from the island of Soay off the coast of Scotland.
The largest number of this breed are now found on Hirta which is one of the island of the St. Kilda group. In 1932 this island was evacuated and, in 1932, 107 Soay sheep (20 rams, 44 ewes, 22 ram lambs and 21 ewe lambs) were brought from the island of Soay and released.
Soay sheep are much smaller than most sheep breeds. Mature females average weight is about 24 kg and mature males are about 38 kg. This makes them about one-third the side of modern sheep.
Soay are highly variable in appearance. Many have the classic coat color, which is called dark wild (light belly and rump to match). There are three other varieties – dark self, light wild and light self. There are also three horn types for the Soay – normal horns carried by 85% of males and 35% of females, scurred horns which are small and mis-shapened (15% of males, 37% of females) and polled (28% of females).
The Soay’s fleece sheds naturally in the spring or early summer. The fleece is remarkable fine and, in contrast to mouflon, the inner fleece is highly developed and it is difficult to distinguish an outer coat. This is a clear indication that the Soay are indeed the product of a breed domesticated in prehistoric times.
The breed also lacks the flocking instinct of many breeds. Attempts to work them using sheep dogs result in a scattering of the group.
The fleece is shed each spring and is used for hand knitting yarns. The wool quality is 44's to 50's, fleece weight is 3 to 5 pounds (1.5-2.25 kg) and staple length is 5 to 15 cm.