LONGWOOL SHEEP BREEDS

Wensleydale

The Wensleydale sheep is a large breed of domesticated sheep from United Kingdom.
It originated in the Wensleydale region of North Yorkshire, England. It was developed in the 19th century by crossing Dishley Leicester and Teeswater sheep. It is one of the largest and heaviest of all sheep breeds. It has a blue-grey face, and has long, ringlet-like locks of wool. It’s a large long wool breed with a distinctive grey black face, ears and legs. Average live body weight of the mature Wensleydale sheep vary from 115 to 136 kg. Wensleydale sheep is raised for both meat and wool production. It is also used for crossing with other breeds.

Currently the breed is established throughout the United Kingdom and extends into mainland Europe. However, they are currently categorized as ‘at risk‘ by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust of the United Kingdom, and there are fewer than 1500 registered breeding ewes.

Characteristics
The Wensleydale is a large long-wool sheep with a distinctive grey black face, ears and legs. The ears are slightly elongated and stand upright. They are naturally polled and have a tuft of long wool on top of the head which is not typically shorn (for aesthetic purposes). Wool from this breed is acknowledged as the finest lustre long wool in the world. The fleece from a purebred sheep is considered kemp* -free and curled or purled on out to the end. Rams weigh about 300 lbs and ewes about 250 lbs.

Average prolificy: Yearling ewe - 200% Mature ewes - 250%

Twin lambs will average 13 pounds each at birth with a growth rate that enables ram lambs to reach 160 lbs. at 21 weeks. Average lamb weight at 8 weeks: Singles - 57 lbs. Twins - 48 lbs. Micron count 33-35 Staple length 8-12 inches Yearling Fleece Weight 13-20 pounds.

  • Kemp is a brittle weak fibre forming the residual traces of a secondary coat in some species of sheep, which may be mixed with normal fibers in a wool fleece. This hair is not desirable in a fleece, as it does not accept dye, minimising both the quality and the value of the wool.

Bluefaced Leicester

The Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) is a longwool breed of domestic sheep, which evolved from a breeding scheme of Robert Bakewell, in Dishley, Leicestershire in the eighteenth century. First known as the Dishley Leicester, and then the Hexham Leicester, because of the prevalence of the breed in Northumberland, the name Bluefaced Leicester became known at the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1970s, the Bluefaced Leicester was exported to Canada and other parts of the world. This breed is raised primarily for meat, but their fleece is becoming increasingly popular for handspinning. Bluefaced Leicester sheep may also have brown on their face. They are hardy and strong animals. They are well adapted to their local climates. They have curly, fine, rather lustrous wool which is one of the softest of the UK clip. Their fleece is not very heavy, weighting only 1 to 3 kg. Their head and neck are generally free of wool. Their pattern and shape of the wool is most like the Wensleydale Sheep, but having smaller, tighter curls.

For producing mules, the Bluefaced Leicester rams are put over hill sheep ewes, which combine the prolificacy of the Bluefaced Leicester sheep with the hardiness and mothering ability of the hill sheep. The ewes are highly prolific with an average lambing percentage ranges from 220 to 250 percent.

Characteristics
Bluefaced Leicester sheep have curly, fine, rather lustrous wool, which is one of the softest of the UK clip. The fleeces are not very heavy, only weighing 1 to 3 kg (2.2 to 6.6 lb). They have no wool on the head or neck, although the pattern and shape of the wool is most like the Wensleydale, but having smaller, tighter curls. Bluefaced Leicesters are recognisable through their Roman noses, which have a dark blue skin which can be seen through the white hair, hence the name. They are tangentially related to the original Leicester Longwool breed. BFL rams are put over hill sheep ewes to produce mules, which combine the prolificacy of the BFL with the hardiness and mothering ability of the hill sheep (- mules are the UK's most numerous sheep). Fully grown Blueface rams can weigh up to 110 kg (240 lb) and ewes up to 89 kg (196 lb). At maturity and at the withers, rams are 90 cm (35 in) tall and ewes 85 cm (33 in) tall.

Ryeland

The Ryeland is one of the oldest English sheep breeds going back seven centuries when the monks of Leominster in Herefordshire bred sheep and grazed them on the rye pastures, giving them their name. It was introduced into Australia in 1919 and is classified as an endangered breed by the Rare Breed Trust of Australia and also are one of the nine heritage breeds that were the foundation of the sheep and wool industry in Australia. This breed is raised for meat and wool.

Ryelands are docile with high fertility. Due to their blocky build they are easy on fences compared to many breeds. They are ideal sheep for small properties. Ryelands are also 'good -doers' – William Youatt wrote that Ryelands "endure privation of food better than any other breed" and Sir Joseph Banks wrote "Ryelands deserve a niche in the temple of famine".

Characteristics
Ryelands have a smaller head than most terminal sires which makes them a good choice for maiden or Merino ewes but they have a fast growth rate and early maturity. In Australia the wool is always white and free of kemp. A coloured gene does occur in Great Britain.

The hooves are black and they are said to have good resistance to footrot. The Ryeland was one of the breeds used to introduce the poll gene (no horns) to the Dorset breed in the development of the Poll Dorset. 

The wool resists felting. The staple length is generally 8 cm to 10 cm, with a fibre diameter of 25 to 28 microns. The fleece on average weighs 2 kg to 3 kg.

Romney

The Romney sheep is a breed of domestic sheep from United Kingdom. It is also called as Romney Marsh previously, and local farmers call the breed as Kent. It is actually a ‘long-wool’ breed originating in England. The breed was recognized by the 1800s and was exported to some other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. The Romney sheep is an economically-important breed of domestic sheep. It is very important especially to the sheep-meat and wool export trades of New Zealand.

The breed was developed from medieval longwool types of which this breed and Leicester breeds are early examples. The breed was improved in body type and fleece quality through crossing with Bakewell’s English Leicester. 

Characteristics
Romney sheep is a large sized breed. It can be either white or colored. It is generally an open-faced breed with long wool that grows over the legs in full. Standards for the breed are not identical across all countries and have much in common. These animals have a wide head with large, bright and prominent eyes. Their face is masculine in appearance and is full in ewes. Their nose and hooves are black in color. The neck is not too long, but strong and well set at the shoulders. Their chest is wide and deep, and the back is straight and long with a wide and deep loin. Their rump is wide, long and well-turned. The thighs of the Romney sheep are well developed, and the tail is set almost even with the chine.

Deborah Evers