Cheviot Sheep

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Other common names: Border Cheviot; South Country Cheviot

The basics:
According to the Cheviot Sheep Society, "The Cheviot originated in the Cheviot Hills, on the border of England and Scotland. Recognized as a hardy sheep as early as 1372, Cheviots did well in those bleak, windswept conditions, with their strong constitution, easy lambing, well developed mothering instinct, and fast maturity. The Cheviot ewe can be found grazing up to 3,000 feet and is expected to live off the hill throughout the year."

The Cheviot Sheep was introduced to the United States from Scotland in the early 1800s. Cheviots are now common in the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Other breeds which originated with the Border Cheviot include the North Country Cheviot Sheep and the Brecknock Hill Cheviot Sheep. Miniature Cheviot Sheep are small Cheviots with a registry in the United States.

Appearance / health:
According to the American Cheviot Sheep Society, "As sheep weights go, it is definitely one of the smaller breeds but one of the most distinctive in appearance. Much of its distinctive appearance is due to the high carriage of the head and the quick, coordinated stride. The head is carried high, and the ears are carried together, erect and forward. There is no wool on the head or face in front of the ears, nor is there wool below the knees and the hocks. The head, legs, and ears are covered with very fine white hair. Their bare heads, attractive white color and absence of horns give them a very aristocratic bearing. Nostrils and hooves should be black in color. Rams in good condition mature at 160 to 200 lbs., ewes from 130 to 170 lbs."

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:
Sheep are herd animals that rely on staying together as a flock to protect themselves from predators. They are highly sensitive to predators because they are basically “prey animals.” They sense the presence of threat from several hundred feet away (they are able to twist and turn their ears to detect potential danger) and instinctively flee instead of fight or attack. While fleeing, sheep run in a winding pattern to be able to see what is behind them.

As domesticated animals, sheep make good pets because they are docile and easily connect with humans, especially lambs that are bottle-fed. Miniature breeds and sheep that have hair instead of fur make ideal pets. Raising pet sheep is a popular project in the 4-H youth organization. Cheviot sheep are alert and active. They require minimal husbandry because ewes have good maternal instincts.

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.


mild flavor, heavy milkers, devoted mothers, easy keepers, good carcass quality, roughest weathers


nervous breed, superduper pen, aggressive breed, scares


dual use sheep, hardy hill breed, open moorland, minimal death loss, broad backs

Cheviot Sheep Behavior Tip

Cheviot Sheep

From HeleneMarie Jan 16 2015 7:49PM


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