Livestock

Other sheep breeds

As well as the traditional British ones, there are many other breeds of sheep that have originated in other countries and have been imported to the UK to meet particular market demands. Examples are Texel, from the Netherlands, Beltex, from Belgium, Bleu de Maine, from France.

Almost without exception, these breeds are used to provide terminal sires for use on crossbred ewes such as the Mule to produce fast growing lambs for slaughter. They have been developed to produce the carcase required by the supermarket butcher – lean, long, well muscled hind end and consistent is size and shape.

However, there area number of other very distinctive breeds:

The Ouessant

Very small French sheep, probably related to the northern short tailed sheep like the British primitive breeds. Originates from a small island of the same name, off the coast of Brittany. Can be white or coloured. Usually only has one lamb.

For comparison, rams are 48-50cm at the shoulder compared to the smallest British breed, the Soay, at 50-61cm.

The Zwartbles

A polled sheep breed from Friesland in the Netherlands. Distinctive appearance, being black with a white blaze down the face, white socks above black feet on the back and sometimes the front feet and a white tip on the tail, which is never docked.

They are milky and in some countries are used in cheese production. They are a large sheep (rams 100kg, ewes, 85kg), and are prolific and long-lived.

The title image on this page shows Zwartbles (image courtesy of the Zwartbles Sheep Asscociation).

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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