Other common names: Lakeland Herdwick Sheep
Herdwick Sheep are a hardy breed which are native to the Lake District in northwest England. Herdwicks are considered to be the hardiest of Britain’s breeds of hill sheep, and they are prized for their robust health, their ability to live solely on forage, and their tendency to be territorial and not stray. Herdwick Sheep were severely threatened by the 2001 outbreak of Foot-and-mouth disease in England and Wales, but have since rebounded in numbers due to concerted efforts to preserve this traditional Lakeland heritage breed.
Appearance / health:
Herdwick lambs are born with black faces, legs and blue-roan fleeces which lighten in the adults. After the first shearing, their fleece lightens further to gray. The males are horned and the females are polled or naturally hornless.
Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the nervous systems of sheep and goats. It is one of several transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), which are related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or "mad cow disease") and chronic wasting disease of deer.
According to the Herdwick Sheep Breeders' Association, "Although the breed has not been significantly troubled with scrapie (indeed many breeders have not experienced a case), the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association in 1998 began a voluntary programme of scrapie resistance testing using the genotype testing techniques developed by the Central Veterinary Laboratory and the Scottish Agricultural Colleges. Tups which had any significant potential to transmit a susceptibility to scrapie to their offspring were required to be culled. Since the development pf the National Scrapie plan the majority of members now test their rams either through the NSP or privately."
Housing / diet:
Herdwick Sheep are typically kept out on the fells, even in winter, and are extremely hardy. The sheep are gathered and brought down from the fell 4-5 times a year - for dipping/spraying, dosing, shearing, tupping and lambing.
Herdwicks are able to thrive through foraging on the hillsides, and most live their lives without receiving any supplementary feed.