Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep

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Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep

Mountain Sheep or Defaid Idloes are a hearty mountain breed of a relatively small size (weighing 40-60 kilograms for ewes and 90 kilograms for rams) and with a quiet and friendly temperament. The breed can be categorized into two subtypes — the Torddu and the Torwen – to differentiate the two distinct colour patterns. The Tourddu (Welsh for ‘black belly’) have the characteristic ‘badger face’. The body wool and the face, which is free of wool, is white, with black markings consisting of the inside of the ears, the distinct stripes above the eyes, and the band that runs from the chin, to the belly, to the tip of the tail. If rams have horns, they will be dark coloured and heavily spiralled. The Torwen (Welsh for ‘white belly’) variety is nearly the opposite. Its body wool and face, which is also free of wool, is black or dark brown. The lower jaw is white, with this colour continuing down the throat. Belly wool is white all the way to the tail, which is white on the underside but dark on the outer side. It has distinct white stripes running along they eyes towards the nose, and small ears have a light colour inside. Again, if rams have horns they will be dark and spiralled. The Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep is a native sheep with a long history. It has been found in many areas of Wales for as long as sheep have wandered the mountains and hills of the country. Its old name Defaid Idloes indicates this very early existence, as the name derives from St. Idloes, a 7th century saint. It is believed that both subtypes were some of the very first sheep in Wales. The Torwen bears many resemblances to other primitive breeds (like the Soay and Mouflon). In the past, they predominately lived in woodland and scrubland habitats, and so the colouring developed to aid in blending in with their surroundings. The Torddu were instead kept more on the open hills, where camouflage was not required. In the mid-1970’s, a small farmers’ group in Wales, who all kept Badger Face sheep, met to exchange some of their sheep and formed the Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep Society in November 1976. This is when the breed was first officially recognised. Together with its low weight and its good lamb crop (and a percentage of twin lambs higher than usual), it enables producers to have more lambs per hectare than with larger breeds, which means a good cash return for farmers. The meat is known for its quality, succulence, fine texture and excellent flavour. Badger Face sheep also produce plenty of milk, and the wool is firm, of medium length, and good for hand spinners. The majority of Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep (including both subtypes) are raised in Wales, but there are also some producers throughout England. Currently, there are livestock, meat products, milk, and wool available on the market. It is estimated that there are over 3000 individuals today. Some sources claim that the Torddu is three times more numerous than the Torwen.

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Nominated by:Chef Gareth Stevenson, Palé Hall, Relais & Châteaux