Know your Sheep
There are thought to be more sheep breeds in the UK than any other country in the world. The breeds listed here enjoy affiliation to the National Sheep Association. For more information about NSA breed society affiliation email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most numerous of British breeds, the Blackface is found over a wide spectrum of hill and marginal ground throughout Great Britain and Ireland. All Blackfaces are horned, with black or black and white face and legs. The fleece should be free of black fibre, and can vary from short, fine wool used for carpets and tweeds to strong coarse, which is mainly sold for the Italian mattress trade. Influenced by climate, environment and grazing quality several distinct types have evolved within the breed and are generally identified by the centres at which they are sold. The Perth type, a large framed sheep with a medium to heavy coat, is found mainly in North East Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Lanark type is dominant in Central and Southern Scotland and the Borders. It is of medium length, with a shorter, denser coat than that of the Perth type. The Newton Stewart or Galloway type is a compact, burly sheep with a short, thick rain resistant coat, and is found, in its native South West Scotland, and many of the hard wet areas of the West of Scotland, the Hebrides, and Ireland. In the North of England the large framed, soft-coated Northumberland Blackface is influential in the breeding of the North of England Mule. Average adult bodyweight: Upland 70kg; Ave./good hill 50-65kg; poor hill 45-50kg
Brecknock Hill Cheviot
White face and legs. Ears erect with no ruff of wool behind them. No wool on face or legs below knee or hock. Broad, strong back. Rams are occasionally horned, ewes are polled. Average mature ewe weighs 60kg, rams 90kg.
The Charollais is a medium to large sized sheep, long, well muscled with thick, deep gigots. The body is long with a well muscled broad loin and wide deep chest. The head is free from wool, pinkish/grey in colour sometimes with spots. The line of the shoulders should retain a wedge shape which is so important for ease of lambing. The legs are clean, quite short, coloured but never very dark. The front legs should not be set too wide apart and animal must be well balanced. The gigots are well developed, thick and deep. The breed is primarily a terminal sire and the fleshing quality is of the highest importance. Excessive bone is undesirable in the breed; the fineness of bone contributes to the high killing out percentage achieved by the breed. The fleece is white, fine and dense, the staple length quite short. Average mature ewe weighs 80-100kg, rams 100-150kg.
Devon And Cornwall Longwool
The head is well covered with long curly wool. Both sexes are polled. The body is covered in long curly, white wool. Well proportioned with a strong wide and long top, with well sprung rib giving plenty of volume. The rear being well muscled with good conformation. Average mature ewe weighs 100kg, rams 136kg.
Epynt Hardy Speckled Sheep
Epynt Hardy Speckled Sheep are a commercial, easy-care breed and their primary purpose is to perform well in the upland environment all year round with limited supplementary feeding. They are a long living, good mouthing sheep producing lambs which are easy to finish. They are a heavy boned hill sheep which is stocky and sturdy in stature with a speckled face and legs, of grey brown or black clean of wool. The ewes are polled and the rams usually horned. Their attributes include a strong hefting ability, excellent mothering ability and being a good breed for crossing. Average mature ewe weighs 40-50kgs, rams 60-70kgs.
The Friesland is a large framed animal with rams weighing up to 120kg. In common with all dairy animals it possesses extremely good length, a large roomy pelvis, narrow head and fine boned limbs. The breed is naturally polled and has a long bald tail. The fleece is pure white and of high quality, medium staple fine wool, yielding up to 5kg, usually graded by the British Wool Board as Bradford Count 48-52. Average mature ewe weighs 50-55kg, rams above 75kg.
The Icelandic is a medium sized, upstanding sheep, with a light frame and a naturally short fluke-shaped tail. Although majority are horned in both sexes, polled rams and ewes are common. The horns of the ram are strong and well rounded, the ewe's horns are finer and usually swept back. Four horned sheep are found occasionally in Iceland, but none have occurred in the UK. The fleece consists of a dual coat of very fine under-wool and an outer coat of long hairs and is found in all the natural colours, including a wide range of browns. Broken coloured sheep are common, the patterns ranging from limited markings, such as speckled, to large patches of colour on a white background or the reverse. Darker dorsal stripes are often found, Mouflon and badger face patterns occur. Grey sheep may have a black outer coat. Average mature ewe weighs up to 60kg, rams 90kg.
Ile De France
The head is strong with a broad forehead, polled with protruding sockets, face of medium length, lips and nose rather thick. The profile is straight, slightly concave for the ram, with large ears, horizontal or standing slightly upwards, covered with thin short hair. The body is wide and large, broad and deep chested. It has a close white fleece. White covering covers the top of the head and extends down to or slightly above the orbital arches, frames the face, extends to just above the knees of the forelegs, covers the chest and belly, extends over the buttock to the hock of the hind legs. Average mature ewe weighs 70-90kg, rams 110-150kg.
The Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep are an elite hill breed of sheep. The rams have tremendous scale for a hill breed possessing good length and depth and can be either horned or moiled (without horns). The sheep have a dense fleece able to withstand the elements of the harsh upland environment. Both rams and ewes have a clean white face. For generations the Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep has been bred to live and thrive in the areas surrounding the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire with Llandovery the central market where the sheep have been sold.
Nelson South Wales Mountain
The breed is similar in appearance to the other Welsh Mountain breeds. The main differences are its greater size and the usual presence of tan markings on the face and legs together with a brown collar. The fleece is dense with an even mixture of white kempy fibre.
Welsh Hill Speckled Face
A very attractive breed with black markings on nose, eyes, ears, knees and feet on an otherwise white body. Ewes are polled, but both horned and polled rams are acceptable. Average mature ewe weighs 50-55kg, rams 60-70kg.
Welsh Mountain-Hill Flock
The Welsh Mountain ewe, has a white or tan face, it has a strong close textured fleece and a typical ewe clip weighs up to 2kg. The ram is usually, but not always, horned. Average mature ewe weighs 35-40kg on the hill or mountain but can add a further 10kg when drafted onto lowland.
Rams are white or slightly tanned face with masculine wedge-shaped heads, horns, fairly strong, well curved. Ewes are polled, wool white, firm medium length. Bodies are compact, strong, medium sized. Welsh sheep are attractive in appearance and lively in action. Average mature ewe weighs 45-48kg, rams 75-80kg.