We stock wool (fleece and yarn) from the following sheep, although it is not a complete list of British sheep breeds.
We only stock fleece from Certified Organic sheep.
for “white blaze”. The body is dark grey, black or brown and
is the only native British sheep with white colouring on the face, socks
For many years the Balwen Welsh Mountain sheep was confined to the counties of Cardigan, Brecon and Carmarthen. As much of its native habitat was planted with coniferous woodland the population steadily declined. After the harsh winter of 1947, it is thought that only one male Balwen survived. Their existence today is entirely due to the perseverance of the farmers in the region during the 1950s and 60s.
The wool includes some kemp (short, thick, wavy fibres with a white, chalky appearance) which gives knitted garments an interesting texture and is especially suitable for hard-wearing outer clothing.
The Balwen is listed as "at risk" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
WELSH MOUNTAIN wool is referred
to as “Cochddu” (Brownish; from coch - red, du - black)
because the tip of the wool bleaches in the summer sunshine and becomes
a reddish brown. Traditionally this wool was much sought after by the
numerous home spinners as well as the small local woollen mills as it
is sufficiently fine, soft and densely stapled to be regarded as a speciality
BLACK WELSH MOUNTAIN
LEICESTER sheep evolved in Northumberland at the end of the nineteenth
century for the specific purpose of breeding high quality cross-bred ewes
from hardy hill breeds. By the beginning of the twentieth century the
Bluefaced Leicester had developed into a distinct breed. A hundred years
later it is recognised as one of the most prolific of British sheep breeds.
The wool is dense and demi-lustrous and is amongst the finest from the native sheep breeds producing a high quality lustre yarn. The sheep are white, grey or black.
is a large, longwool breed with a high quality lustre
wool suitable for most uses. The average fleece weighs 10-16 lbs with a wool growth of approximately 1 inch per month. The heavy wool is much finer than that of other longwool breeds.
It is a very ancient breed that has existed in the Cotswold hills of Gloucestershire since Roman times. The success of these sheep in the Middle Ages was largely responsible for the development of the Cotswold Region and the wool churches and large houses remain as evidence of its past importance. Competition from other breeds forced the Cotswold into decline until, in 1950, there was only one pure-bred flock remaining. The numbers are now increasing.
The Cotswold is listed as "vulnerable" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
back to top COTSWOLD
MOORIT is one of Britain’s rarest breeds of sheep. The
ewes have two uniform and wide spreading horns whilst the rams have
heavy spiralling horns. The fleece is very soft to touch and deep chocolate
at the base fading to light brown at the tips of the fibres.
The Castlemilk Moorit is listed as “critical” by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
FACED DARTMOOR or “Dartmoor” sheep are among the
hardiest of the longwool breeds which enables it to withstand the severe
winters and exposed moorland pastures of South West England. Groups of
Dartmoor sheep have often remained buried under drifts of snow for days
on end and yet have emerged unharmed. Their wool is long, curly and lustrous.
A yearling ram can yield a fleece weighing 26 lbs and a yearling ewe 17
lbs with an average staple length of nine inches.
Dartmoor sheep are often shorn as lambs, as the "Devon" lambswool is highly prized
GREY FACED DARTMOOR
sheep, as their name implies, originated in the islands off the west coast
of Scotland. Towards the end of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth
this variety of small, thrifty sheep still provided the mainstay for shepherds
in these regions but gradually the agricultural revolution of the period,
development of new breeds of sheep and the clearance of many farming families from the land began to take its toll. With government and landowner's support the sheep were replaced by "improved" breeds. By the early part of the twentieth century the Hebridean sheep, which had been present in the region for almost a thousand years, had all but disappeared.
By the end of the nineteenth century flocks of Hebridean sheep had begun to appear in the parklands of large country estates, both in Scotland and in England. Had it not been for the existence of these parkland flocks, the breed would not have survived into the middle of the twentieth century.
The dense weatherproof fleece is black but the tips may become sun-bleached to brown; some go grey with age.
The Hebridean is listed as a "minority" breed by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
sheep, beloved by Beatrix Potter, originated in the fells of the Lake
District where they still flourish. They are widely thought to be the
hardiest British breed. The wool is coarse and kempy and attractive speciality
fabrics are made from it using the undyed wool from sheep of different
ages. The lambs are born almost black turning lighter as they grow older,
each year's fleece is paler than the year before. Thus each sheep produces
a wide variety of shades during its lifetime.
Our Herdwick fleeces are blended with enough of a finer white wool from one of our other breeds (Ryeland) to enable it to be spun into a strong, even yarn suitable for hand knitting.
sheep produce a medium to high quality wool with good lustre in two main
distinct colours (cream and black) giving a strong, springy yarn enabling
attractive, warm and light weight garments to be made from natural, undyed
The Jacob is a multiple horned breed. The number of horns varies from two to six and those of the ram can be magnificent and these, along with their black and white faces and spotted bodies, have no doubt contributed to their popularity and survival. Their actual origins are not known, however documentation throughout history indicates that spotted or pied sheep may have originated some three thousand years ago in what is now Syria. Pictorial evidence traces movements of these sheep through North Africa, Sicily, Spain and on to England.
LONGWOOL is probably the most famous of British sheep being directly
descended from the Dishley Leicester which was created by Robert Bakewll
towards the end of the eighteenth century. One of his objectives was to
produce a sheep with a heavy fleece of high quality.
The Dishley Leicester fulfilled an important roll in the history of sheep breeding as it was used to improve most other longwool breeds in the middle of the eighteenth century, introducing size, hardiness and wool quality.
The present Leicester is a big sheep with a heavy fleece (10-15 lbs) of curly, lustrous wool, which is even in length and fibre diameter.
LOGHTAN sheep are a Northern short-tailed, multi-horned breed
native to the Isle of Man. The word Loghtan is derived from the Manx words
“lugh” (mouse) and “dhoan” (brown). Both sexes
can be horned or polled (hornless), with two, four or occasionally even
six horns being recorded.
The wool is moorit (red-brown) and is used mainly for the production of undyed woollens but is also suitable for the manufacture of tweeds.
The Manx Loghtan is listed as "at risk" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
DORSET sheep were developed from one of England’s oldest
breeds of sheep - the Dorset Horn. Both are unique in their ability to
breed at any time of the year and produce one of the highest quality wools
grown in this country. It is completely free from grey fibres and is remarkably
white even before scouring.
The Poll Dorset types originated in Australia and the British Polls have been bred from the rams imported into this country. Since the early 1900s the breed has spread throughout Britain and more recently into Europe displaying an ability to cope with very varied climatic conditions.
- probably one of the most direct descendants of the old tan-faced type
of sheep native to the South West of England. It is a small breed, weighing
on average 90lbs. Both sexes are horned, with brown or tan faces and legs.
The lambs are born with foxy brown wool that changes to grey or white
during the first year but red or fawn patches may persist until maturity.
The wool is close and fine, suitable for a variety of uses.
The Portland sheep is listed as "vulnerable" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
sheep originated in the county of Herefordshire some eight hundred years
ago and have been famous for more than six centuries, since the time when
the monks of Leominster bred sheep in the rye growing areas of South Herefordshire.
The wool from the breed was known as “Leominster Ore”. Ryeland
wool has alwaysbeen of very high quality. At one time most of the wool
used in the production of West of England broadcloth was from Ryeland
sheep. With its soft, light handle, its springiness and dense staple in
which there are practically no kemps or black and grey fibres, this clean
white wool is very suitable for end products in which a smooth finish
and good resilience are needed.
COLOURED RYELAND back to top
RYELANDS produce a soft springy fleece of a similar quality,
but in a variety of shades from light grey to dark brown.
The Ryeland is listed as a "minority" breed by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
the basis of the Shetland woollen industry, famous world-wide. The Shetland
Islanders developed their small, multi-coloured sheep to produce a very
fine, soft wool of vastly superior quality to that produced by most
SHETLAND CHEVIOT back to top
CHEVIOT sheep are a first cross between a North Country Cheviot
ram and a Shetland ewe. The breed was originally developed at the turn
of the twentieth century and was gaining popularity through the 1970s
as it spread into the Orkneys, Caithness and down through Scotland.
The Shetland Cheviot produces a fine, white, tight woolled fleece of good quality due to its parentage with the Shetland producing the finest native British wool. The North Country Cheviot also grows a fleece of good quality suitable for knitwear and tweeds.
For more information on sheep breeds British Wool Marketing Board
VAT No. (GB) 771 7172 36
Copyright© chrisk 2005-2012 Updated December 6, 2012