Southdown Sheep

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Southdown Sheep

Southdown Sheep

The Southdown is an ancient breed with its origins on the Sussex Downlands which it has roamed from time immemorial. Such is its age that it is often said to be ‘older than the peerage.’ An English breed of sheep belonging to the ‘Downs’ group that also includes Shropshire’s, Hampshire’s, Oxford’s and Suffolk’s – the Southdown is the smallest and oldest of these breeds (weighing about 135-155 pounds when fully mature) and for centuries supplied the country with lamb and mutton and also wool – which was exported to the looms of Flanders and Italy and the worsted mills of Britain itself. The breed is primarily raised for meat which is known for its smooth rich quality. Indeed their meat is unequaled in tenderness and flavor. The Southdown is a medium wool breed with a numerical wool count of 54 to 60 and a staple length of 1.5 to 2.5 inches. Southdown sheep have a blocky body shape with heavy muscling in the hindquarters and loin. Their face is wide with wool covering the ears, most of the face and the legs. The hair on the face is a tan to gray color. Both rams and ewes are polled. It has well developed hind quarters, which have a lot to offer. These small sheep are renowned for their extreme hardiness and are an excellent carcass breed. They are usually slaughtered when they reach 16-21 kg in weight.   This breed has been traditionally found in great quantities especially in and around the area of the South Downs near Lewes in Sussex. It was from here they gained their name. It has been estimated that there were some 110,000 sheep in Sussex in 1341 and their wool was considered second only to the Hereford sheep in fineness and quality. In 1813, nearly five centuries later, Reverend Arthur Young estimated that there were 200,000 ewes kept on the eastern South Downs and commented that ‘the amazing number they keep is one of the most singular circumstances in the husbandry of England’.

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