Congleton, Cheshire, United Kingdom
Posted Sep 05, 2012
Of all the sheep breeds I have dealt with over the years, this is the only one where I have experience only of the rams. This is because, like many Welsh farms, we used them for the production of Welsh Mules (cross breeds with Beulah, Welsh Mountain and Welsh Hill Speckle Faced sheep for improved meat production — the crosses are known as 'Welsh Mules')
If you are used to the smaller hill breeds then when you first see the bluefaced Leicester, they are really huge; they are almost 1m tall at the withers. The rams can weigh up to 125kg and they are a big beast to handle during shearing time or to treat their feet.
Their wool is very fine and the purebred sheep produces a light, high-quality fleece. They need to be shorn once a year to cool them for the summer months. They have distinctive Roman noses and the skin is blue which shows through the fine fur of the nose and legs.
Of all the sheep breeds this is probably the calmest and pet owners love them for this. They do not run away from humans and even like to be petted. If raised from bottle or bucket-trained they can be a bit of a nuisance, behaving more like goats than sheep. They will come up to people, will nuzzle you and will nibble at clothes and hair.
This makes them adorable in a way... but a nuisance in another. On a working farm they can be hard to herd and are more inclined to be bucket led. Of course, their calm nature makes them excellent show animals. But, when you need to move them in a race or in a stockade and they just stand there looking at you in distain as all the other sheep are running around like mad things it can be frustrating. More than one I have had to jump into a sheep race to physically shove or drag a Bluefaced Leicester out of the way.
The advantage of the calmness is that, despite their size they will stand still as you manhandle them. The rams are not aggressive so they are ideally suited to all male flocks outside of breeding time. They also seem to have a calming influence on other rams. At tupping time they mark out territories and stick to them. Fights between Bluefaced Leicesters does not seem to be a common occurrence.
If you are looking for an unusual breed for a smallholding then I think the Bluefaced Leicesters would be ideal. I can definitely recommend them as rams for anyone trying to improve the conformation and meat qualities of their flock. One thing to note. Because of their size they have a smaller surface area to volume ratio than many other sheep breeds. They can be prone to heat-stroke in summer as a result. If keeping them make certain that they have plenty of water and shade.