Other common names: English Leicester; Bakewell Leicester; Dishley Leicester; Improved Leicester; New Leicester
English Leicester sheep are a breed which were developed by Robert Bakewell in the English Midlands in the 1700's. The breed was developed to gain weight quickly and to be fast growing. The English Leicester has been used to improve many sheep breeds because of its meaty carcass and heavy fleece. It is one of the few sheep breeds that is considered to be "pure".
The English Leicester is currently found in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and the US. Leicester Sheep are now one of Britain's rarest breeds, categorized as "endangered" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust because there are fewer than 500 registered breeding females in the United Kingdom.
Appearance / health:
According to the Leicester Longwool Sheepbreeders’ Association, "The Leicester Longwool is a large, polled and attractive sheep. There are now two permitted colours, White and Black. The breed characteristics are the same for both colours; the only difference is that each colour has a separate “Flock Book”. The Black Leicester was admitted to registration in 1986. Since then they have become very popular with smaller breeders and those interested in wool.
Mature rams can weigh 150 kg and a mature ewe up to 100kg. The high quality lustrous fleece, demonstrates evenness in length and diameter and has a Bradford count of 40-46 with a staple of around 40cm on an unshorn shearling, less on an adult sheep after re-growth from shearing. The length of staple does vary depending on the area that it lives in; sheep further north tend to have longer wool. The total weight on average is 12 – 18lb, but weights have been recorded up to 33 lbs.
The head is bold and strong on a short thick neck. The crown is well covered with wool, and the face covered in white (black) hair. The ears are blue (on white sheep), fine and fairly long with occasional spots. The muzzle strong with even jaws, and nostril dark in colour. The body is deep and of considerable length with full flanks. The back is broad and level, the ribs being well sprung. The legs are of medium length with good bone, well set up on the pasterns on dark feet. The legs are covered in white (black) hair, the back legs usually being covered in wool."
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:
They are a sound footed sheep which means they are acceptable on flat, hilly or more especially marginal country. They are large framed sheep with a wide even topline (back) a strong constitution and a good temperament.
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.
beautiful long curls, high lustre greasy, wonderful fleece, fast lamb growth, pretty white faces
bit flighty, flightier breeds Cheviots
shorter legs, heavy fleece
Raising English Leicester Longwools for Breed Stock, Wool, Meat.
We bought an older flock from another couple in Michigan. 7 ewes & 1 Ram. We had 7 ewe lambs and 3 ram lambs the first year. One ewe with twins had a prolapse due to overly short dock. We lost her and her ram lamb. All others delivered successfully with no assistance. Our flock does not have a high rate of twins. The lambs are a joy to watch "gamboling" around and they grow amazingly fast. Bottle fed lambs quickly become a 2nd shadow and too friendly. Stumps provide ideal bases for tag and "king of the mountain".
These are good looking sheep with shorter legs than Suffolk/Dorsets you see at most fairs. We raise them for wool to use and sell. Their temperaments vary, but on average they are a bit flighty. They will knock you down or run over you to get away if frightened & cornered. Fully grown animals are not recommended for small children, but bottle lambs can be a good experience for any child mature enough to handle that responsibility.
Intact Rams over a few months old are not really a good pet for any age. If they start to think you are a "buddy", they will want to have a butting contest with you. Keep rams just a little afraid of you and away from children.
We haven't tried to show yet. Looks like a lot of work.
Heat and cold tolerance is somewhat dependant on coat length. They tolerate cold better than heat except for the 1st week or 2 after shearing. They need adequate shade and water if it gets much above 80F. Like people, they become acclimated. We bought 2 rams from Old Gjerpen on a 103 degree day and I wilted more than the rams.
English Leicesters are naturally polled and may be white or colored. We have one colored ewe left. She originated from Hopping Acres.
Most Ewes make plenty of milk, one of the reasons for fast lamb growth. We do not wean until it's time for fall breeding (lambs 6 months or more old). Ewes with insufficient milk are culled w/o papers.
Rams and wethers thrive on grass & dry hay diet, but lactating ewes need some grain supplement.
Fiber is long, curly, soft, and high lustre (greasy). Not as fine as Merino, but longer and stronger. Good to blend or for heavier items; overcoats, hook rugs, tapestries. Sweaters made "in the grease" will be waterproof, but heavy and smell like a sheep.
We have butchered one yearling ram. The meat is mild with no gamey flavor. May be too mild for strong mutton lovers. Beef lovers eat it without complaint. We got about 60 pounds of lean meat, all excellent so far.
These sheep cost more to purchase ($400 or more with papers), but also should bring more in a private sale than a generic sheep sold at auction.
They are moderately easy to keep. Lambs will go though any fence with a hole bigger than them, even if electrified. Woven wire with 4x4 or less gap is recommended. I am still trying to figure out the most effective/economical fencing.
From gambolinggrange Jun 11 2011 5:18PM
The Leicester Sheep - a welcome addition to my flock!
I became interested in the Leicester when I bought five Cheviot and Cheviot mix ewes bred to a Leicester ram. The lambs produced by this cross were absolutely wonderful! They were large and fast growing, steady of temperament, gentle, easy to handle and had really lovely fleeces. I was so impressed by these lambs that I decided I wanted more of this genes in my flock. And so this fall I purchased a couple of purebred ewes.
As I've only had these girls for a few months I am still getting to know the breed in its pure form. What I have found so far is relatively favourable with a few reservations. First, they are really beautiful animals. Their fleeces are stunning and they have have very pretty white faces.
These are very large sheep, something I find a little disconcerting as I am not a large person and, should I need to lift, carry or restrain them, it will be a challenge. They are somewhat fearful of people and don't let me get close. Their personalities are fairly mild, however, so I don't anticipate their handling to be too much trouble. So far I have had no need to do so.
The Leicester is known for its wonderful fleece, and wonderful it is! My girls have beautiful long curls and I look forward to having them shorn in the spring and having fun with this wool. There are some drawbacks, however, to such a heavy fleece. For one, as it gets long it tends to part down the middle, leaving a line of exposed skin that can be prone to sunburn or frostbite.
The other issue I have experienced is that when it gets wet and then freezes, this wooly coat become extremely heavy. One of my girls was not shorn last spring and now has a fleece that almost reaches the ground. When running across a field she fell and rolled over onto her back. Her fleece, laden with ice, was so heavy that she was turtled. Stuck on her back, feet in the air, this sheep would have died if I hadn't been there to witness the fall and right her. I have been careful to keep an eye on her since, and will be sure to keep her fleece shorter from now on.
Overall I am happy with these ewes and look forward to adding their genetics to my flock. They should improve my overall fleece quality, meat production and steady the temperaments of my flightier breeds - Cheviots and Shetlands. I would recommend this breed..
From HeleneMarie Jan 16 2015 8:08PM