Acquired: Bred animal myself
Congleton, Cheshire, United Kingdom
Posted Sep 15, 2012
The black genetics of this breed exist in every herd of Welsh Mountain Sheep, so if you keep these sheep, every generation you will get black individuals. Apart from coloration they are almost identical in terms of temperament and hardiness to the standard white Welsh Mountain sheep.
Known in Wales simply as 'defaid duon' (black sheep), there are many songs about them from the 18th century onwards. Traditionally they were kept in flocks as a marker and a way of identifying the owner. The number of black sheep marking out who owned the flock. Black sheep are also easier to spot in the snow.
They do have a peculiarity in that their fleece is very dense and much shorter than the white type. So dense in fact tat it can be hard to force your fingers down to the skin. Because of this the fleece has been much in demand by cottage and small-scale spinning industries. This was the main reason that this black-fleeced variant was isolated and developed into its own breed. It's also why the black trait still survives even in white Welsh Mountain flocks. The rams have the classic curly horns that are traditionally made into shepherds' crooks.
There is also the fact that black animals are deemed lucky, particularly in West Wales (black cats, black cattle and black sheep). So to have black sheep in your flock has long been deemed lucky. I even know some mountain farmers who will give you a black ewe 'for luck' when you purchase a flock from them or if you over-winter their ewes on lowland farms.
Possibly because of this the black sheep have tended to get more attention than their white counterparts and this may explain why it is commonly held that the black Welsh mountain sheep are not as skittish or afraid of humans; simply because people interact more with them.
The black fleeces also make these a breed of choice for smallholders and those seeking a small pet herd.
Like all mountain and hill sheep they are excellent mothers, are very low maintenance (they can survive on the poorest grazing and fodder) and are extremely hardy. Though they are a meat and wool breed, due to their comparative rarity there is a tendency to keep them in the flock and only the surplus ram lambs are sold. As a result they invariably end-up as semi-pets, even within large flocks.