Border Leicester Sheep

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The basics:
The Border Leicester Sheep is a long-wooled breed which was developed in Northumberland, England from the English Leicester Sheep. According to the American Border Leicester Association, "Sheep with long, lustrous wool have been in Leicestershire, England since the earliest recorded history of the British Isles, and are responsible for the improvement and development of other longwool breeds. Robert Bakewell (1726-95) is credited with improvement of the Leicester sheep."

"The Border Leicester breed was founded in 1767 by George and Matthew Culley. They were friends of Bakewell and had access to his improved Leicesters. Some feel that the Culley Brothers developed the Border Leicester by crossing Bakewell’s improved Leicester rams with Teeswater ewes. Others argue that Cheviot blood was introduced. Perhaps both are correct. In any case, the breed was firmly established in England by 1850. Border Leicesters have now surpassed the old English Leicester in popularity in the British Isles and other countries."

Appearance / health:
Border Leicesters are hardy and well muscled, and rank third in size among the longwool breeds. British-type Border Leicesters sport a Roman nose and upright ears. According to the Society of Border Leicester Sheep Breeders, the Border Leicester is, "a distinctive, large, white sheep, long in body,well sprung in ribs with well-developed chest and gigot, proud and graceful. He will stand about 80-85 cm at the shoulder, measure 100cm from crown to tail. Have a wide level back, well and evenly fleshed and firm under hand., well sprung ribs with a level underline. White wool of even quality, densely planted with a good staple length that should cover the whole body.

The head should be thoroughly masculine, have a well developed muzzle with wide black nostrils. Eyes should be clear, bold and dark,; ears a good length, carried at an alert angle and covered with hair, the crown smooth and clear of wool. The teeth should be regular and meet the pad. The neck, tapering nicely from the head, should be strongly set at the shoulders. The back long, level and well fleshed. Well filled gigots should be carried on legs squarely set under the body, strong with clean flat bones, covered with white hair and free of wool. The feet sound and dark in colour. If the ram has all these desireable characteristics he will be evenly balanced and able to move freely with style."

One of the most common ailments among sheep is a viral skin disease called soremouth or “orf.” Ringworm or “club lamb fungus” is a rash also common among sheep. And much like “mad cow disease,” sheep can have a similar neurological ailment called “scrapie.” Sheep health issues should be addressed by a qualified veterinarian. Good health is promoted by sanitary habitat conditions and proper nutrition.

Behavior / temperament:
Border Leicesters are generally calm and easy to handle, even though they are very aware of their surroundings. They are good foragers and get along on less feed than many other breeds.

Housing / diet:
Sheep are grazing animals and do well living their entire lives outdoors. They get sufficient exercise and fresh air out in the field. They do need shelter from bad storms and unusually hot days. Many sheep keepers install field structures to provide shade, for example, hutches, domes, carports, and makeshift sheds. A common shade structure is a hoop house, like an open hangar or a greenhouse, which has a metal arched frame covered with tarp or other heavy-duty fabric.

Some sheep owners keep their flock in a barn or similar enclosure to protect them from predators. These enclosures must have very good ventilation because moisture and poor air conditions lead to the sheep’s poor health.

For warmth and comfort, bedding material should be provided. The best bedding is absorbent, clean, and dry. Some options are straw, wood shaving, sawdust, corncobs, dried corn stalks, peat, hemp, paper, and alfalfa hay. Preference is determined by cost, availability, convenience, and type of sheep. Wool sheep will not appreciate sawdust because it gets in their fleece. Paper is highly absorbent but difficult to manage in the field.

Lambs start with their mother’s milk and a light diet of pasture grass at two weeks old. After weaning the lambs from ewe’s milk at six weeks old, they can start eating dry feed of grains (wheat, oats, barley, cottonseed, corn), soybean and peanut hulls, and hay. The main diet of sheep is fresh grass and other forage and pasture vegetation. The pasture must be fertile and large enough to support the grazing of sheep for about seven hours a day (morning and afternoon). Fresh water must be constantly available, especially during the warm months and if the diet is mostly dry hay. Supplements are recommended, and must be given in the middle of the day to balance the sheep’s food intake.


good maternal instincts, bigger sheep, wool


longer noses, big ears, odd appearance

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