One of the oldest native sheep breeds in Britain, a hornless breed in the mountain and hill classification, the Derbyshire Gritstone has the qualities and potential to increase the agricultural productivity of the bleak upland areas of the north Country and of Wales.
The Gritstone is strong and resistant to disease and a most economical sheep on high ground.
The Derbyshire Gritstone sheep originated on the hills of the Dale of Goyt (now better known as the Goyt Valley) on the edge of the Peak District around the year 1770 and was known in its early years as the Dale O’Goyt sheep. The Derbyshire Gritstone sheep which has been evolved from the Dale O’Goyt sheep is consequently one of the oldest of British Hill breeds.
By 1850 the farmers in the locality were establishing uniformity in the breed, aiming at a hardy, disease resistant animals that could withstand the harsh winters on poor ground, produce a lively lamb, which grew well to produce a good carcass and a saleable wool crop.
On the 15th October 1906, twenty-seven farmers came together to form the Derbyshire Gritstone Sheepbreeders Society (DGSS) under the presidency of the 8th Duke of Devonshire.
- Size - Ewes 55-65kg, Rams 80-100kg
- Long bodied with well placed, broad shoulders, good quarters, well sprung ribs with good top and bottom outlines. The body should be well covered with flesh & wool.
- Legs are black and white (front legs with black knees and hooves, back legs with black markings down the back of the leg and black hooves), free from wool with good bone, joints and feet well placed at each corner of the body, set wide apart and straight.
- The face has a combination of clear black and white markings.
- The head is clear of wool , fairly long, polled (horn free). Ewes should have a feminine appearance, whilst rams are thicker set and masculine.
The Derbyshire Gritstone produces a clean, lean meat carcass required by the retail trade as well as high class, prime quality mutton which, being clean has a long shelf-life.
The Gritstone is a quick grower, and one attribute the breed can claim is its ability the fact its lambs develop quickly and mature early to a good carcass length, and on the hill have been recorded ready for the market from 68 to 104 days (10 to 15 weeks) with liveweights to 40.35kg and carcass weights to 21.34kg.
Derbyshire Gritstones do very well in a variety of habitats including limestone graddlands and they can adapt well to different sward types and heights, are easy to handle, pen and transport, and finish well on an all grass diet.
Derbyshire Gritstone wool is of very high quality and is consistently successful in fleece competitions across the country and has claimed champion fleece twice in the last 7 years at the Great Yorkshire Show - the biggest agricultural show in the country.
The wool board judges regard the Derbyshire Gritstone fleeces so highly because it is so clean, free from kemp or dark hairs, with a good staple and lots of crimp and style.
While most hill breed fleeces are used for the production of carpets the finer fleeces of the Derbyshire Gritstone can be used for hosiery, Worsted yarns and knitwear.
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is the leading national charity working to conserve and protect the United Kingdom's rare native breeds of farm animals from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants and donations from the public to raise the £700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare UK native breeds of farm animals. Visit www.rbst.org.uk to see how you can help.