LEAN & ADAPTABLE SHEEP BREEDS Charollais, Lleyn, Vendeen


The Charollais originates from Charolles and Saóne-et-Loire region in the East Central region of France.
A Charollais sheep is a medium to large size breed with a pinkish/grayish head that is largely free of wool.  They will excel in both lowland and hill flocks which make them versatile to today’s farmer and a dominant force to compete with. They are a polled breed with a wedge shaped well-muscled back.

Appearance: The Charollais is a large, well-muscled animal. The head is pinkish with creamy/sandy hair but no wool. Animals often have a distinctive white flash above each eye. The fleece is white.

History: Developed in the 19th century from local French breeds and the British Dishley Leicester, the Charollais was first imported to the UK from France in 1976. The British Charollais Sheep Society was established the year after with the role of further developing the breed for UK farmers.

Geography: The British Charollais is well established throughout the UK as a commonly used terminal sire. The breed also continues to be popular in France, as well many other countries throughout Europe, Australasia and South America.

Breed attributes: A terminal sire breed with fine bones to produce a good meat-to-bone- ratio in lambs for the food chain. Traits include ewes that are prolific and easy lambing, rearing fast-growing lambs.

Commercial desirability: The British Charollais Sheep Society claims the breed is the second most popular terminal sire in the UK, due to the excellent fleshing qualities and growth in prime lambs.

A fine bone is advantageous as this makes them easily fleshed therefore yielding a high kill out percentage. Predominately it is widely regarded for being an easily lambed terminal sire. This ease of lambing means minimal stress to both ewe and the lamb, which results in a vigorous lamb keen to suck. Superb growth rates and increased muscling in lambs have been widely documented throughout the years, which has affirmed its position as the leading terminal breed sire in Ireland.

A Charollais ram is long lived and remains fertile up to and in excess of seven years while ewes are largely prolific.

The Charollais breed was first introduced to Ireland in 1990 and led to the foundation of the Irish Charollais Sheep Society. The main objective of the Irish Charollais Sheep Society is to promote and grow the market share of the breed within the island of Ireland.

Why Should You Choose To Buy A Charollais Ram?

  • Easy Lambed less intervention needed at lambing

  • Hardy lambs at birth and vigorous to suck

  • ‘Real rams’ ready to work immediately are not pushed

  • Lambs grow rapidly and are quicker to finish

  • Superb cross bred carcasses for excellent conformation with higher kill out percentages

  • Make ideal store lambs as weight heavier without excess fat cover, better grades

  • Low labor maintenance – ideal for out farming

  • Superior quality replacement ewes

 The Irish Charollais Sheep Society http://irishcharollaissheep.net/


The Lleyn ewe is a medium sized lowland sheep weighing up to 75kg at maturity, renowned for their hardiness, prolificacy, easy lambing, strong mothering instinct, milkiness and easy handling.
Appearance: A medium-sized sheep, the Lleyn has white legs, a slender white head with a black nose, and a white fleece. The breed standard requires males and females to not have horns.

History: The origins of the Lleyn are in Ireland, where Dishley Leicesters brought from the UK were used to improve indigenous Irish sheep and develop the Roscommon breed. The Roscommon was exported to the Lleyn peninsula of North Wales in the early 19th century and used to improve local Welsh sheep into the Lleyn. The Lleyn breed society was formed in 1971.

Geography: Originally bred to thrive on the Lleyn peninsula, the Lleyn did not find popularity until the mid-20th century, when it gained a reputation for being the fastest growing breed in the UK. It is now found in large numbers on farms throughout the UK, as well achieving some export success.

Breed attributes: The Lleyn is desirable for its combination of low maintenance and prolificacy, meaning hard working mothers will easily rear two lambs at a time. As a maternal breed, it is a popular cross with terminal sire breeds to produce prime lambs for the food chain.

Commercial desirability: The Lleyn Sheep Society promotes the breed as low maintenance, low disease risk and efficient, with the ability to thrive on upland and lowland grazing.

The wool is white and free from any coloured fibres or kemp and is of good length, dense and of high quality with plenty of crimp. Heads must be feminine and warm white in colour with wide foreheads, good length from eye to nose - being straight to slightly dished and narrowing towards the nose. Bright lively eyes and a black nose. Medium sized ears with black spots are desirable with the base of the ear starting from the wool. The breast is to be wide and well forward.

The neck should be well set in the shoulders and of medium length. The back should be long with well sprung ribs and broad loins which are well joined to the rump.

The legs which are warm white in colour, should be well set with no wool lower than the hock. Flat boned and strong on the pasterns.

HEAD - Distinctive and feminine; warm white in colour; wide forehead; good length from eye to nose, straight to slightly dished and narrowing towards the nose; bright' lively eyes; black nose.

EARS - Medium size and thickness and black spots desirable; base preferably starting from the wool.

NECK - Average length, well set on shoulders.

BREAST - Wide and well forward.

SHOULDER - Well set.

RIB - Long and well arched

BACK - Good length

LOIN - Broad; well joined to rump, well set tail

LEGS - Average length, with no wool lower than the hock. Colour warm white.

BONE - Flat.

TAIL - The tail should be docked according to current practice

WOOL - Containing no kemp, of good length, dense and of high quality.  Excessive peeling/stripping of wool is discouraged within the breed.

RAMS - Hornless


The breed is well established in the Vendée region of France for many hundred of years and said to owe some of its blood to sheep saved from the wreck of Spanish galleons at the time of the Armada. More definite links were seen to be established with an importation to the Vendée of Southdown sheep a little over a century ago.
Appearance: Vendeen sheep have wool on their head and cheeks. Their faces are brown with a long nose and broad muzzle, while fleeces are light in colour.

History: The origins of Vendeens are thought to go back to the Spanish Armada, when sheep were saved from the wreckage of the ships. The breed was further developed by the introduction of Southdown genes in the 19th century and a breed society was established in the UK in 1982.

Geography: The breed has been known to the Vendee region of Western France for many hundreds of years, with the specific British Vendeen developed in the UK since the first animals were imported in 1981.

Breed attributes: A terminal sire breed with females that are prolific and easy lambing. Pure and crossbred lambs produce quality, lean meat for the food chain.

More recently Vendéen sheep have been selected to satisfy the typical French demand for lean meat, whilst they have also been chosen for their hardiness in the wet and windy conditions of the Atlantic coast of France and even for their prolificacy. The impression formed has been that these are very practical sheep which appeal to practical sheep farmers who are seeking the best possible results from sheep which do not make excessive demands in terms of management and labour. They are of a quite temperament and easy to handle. They adapt well to being housed, particularly at lambing and they are good mothers.

Since the Vendéen breed have been in this country we have seen the sheep become established because of their quality and we look forward to the continuing, effective development of this very appealing breed.

The Vendéen breed is hardy and has proved to adapt well to most conditions in Ireland.
The fleece remains close and so sheds water easily and does not open along the back, even in heavy rain. Vendéen lambs are fine to medium in bone and this contributes to the easy births, which are a feature of the breed. The lambs are born brisk and lively.

Growth rates of Vendéen cross lambs are similar to those for the majority of Continental terminal sires. It is possible to send top quality lambs for slaughter from 84 days to receive the highest quality of grading. Because the carcass has high lean content, heavier carcasses of 21kg or above will grade consistently well. They are well suited to both the home butcher’s market and the French market.

About the Society

The society is registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1893-1978 under the auspices of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Limited. The aim of the society is to encourage the breed commercially in Ireland and to support pedigree breeders in the improving of genetic lines of the core stock. http://www.vendeensheep.ie/about-us/