There are literally thousands of sheep breeds in the world, but many of them are small in number and on the verge of extinction. It’s hard to choose a favorite because each has unique characteristics which have been developed over many, sometimes over hundreds of years, that makes them suited to particular purposes and environments. However, one of my favourite is the Cotswold breed.
Cotswold sheep are a rare, heritage breed in Canada. Their ability to maintain a good carcass size on less grain and produce an amazing fleece, makes the breed highly desirable for small farm flocks.
Body weight: Rams: 115 – 130 Kg Ewes: 80 – 100 Kg
Fleece: 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 inches) in length, and weighing 6 to 9 Kg (13 to 20 lbs)
Cotswold sheep are polled (hornless) with black hooves.
Even though by today’s standards in the sheep industry, Cotswold are considered a fairly slow growing sheep, they have many valuable attributes such as,
– easily birthing hardy lambs that have small heads,
– good growth on less grain,
– generally a calm, gentle nature making them easy to handle,
– a large finished carcass size, with meat that has a mild flavour regardless of age,
– a fleece that is highly valued by fibre crafters and artisans, nicknamed the ‘Golden Fleece Breed’, Cotswold wool is exceedingly strong and lustrous. It hangs in long, ringlet locks, and attains 8 to 12 inches of growth in a year.
One of the oldest breeds of sheep, it is unknown whether the Cotswold breed was named after the Cotswold Hills where they were found or alternatively, the hills were named after the Cotswold sheep that were already there.
I am particularly excited and proud to announce the birth this past spring, of twin Cotswold ewe lambs, both of whom carry the coloured gene but one of which has a unique and unusual colour to her fleece. We call the colour blue. We are very excited to see how she will grow out and if her colour stays true. I imagine there will be some competition from fibre crafters to get a chance to create something amazing from her fleece, if it does grow to be as wonderful as it seems so far.
Her sister has a pure white and lustrous fleece, but as a full sister she also carries the coloured gene so has the potential to have offspring with the blue colour. Well worth protecting and breeding for the future.
At this time there are less than 300 Cotswold registered in Canada.