Dorset Horn

Dorset Horn

Key Characteristics

The breed is hardy enough to thrive in diverse conditions worldwide and does well on most types of pasture. The breed is very docile and easily bucket trained. Ewes can produce lambs at up to 10-12 years old. Lambing percentages vary between 140-200% but are dependent on management. Lambs are medium sized and there are few lambing problems. The breed’s prolificacy and capacity for lambing all year around makes it easier to breed flock replacements and build a closed flock using the Dorset Horn– this minimises the risk of bringing in any disease from bought in sheep.

History

  • The sheep of Dorset were known for their unusual ability to breed out of season as far back as the 17th century.
  • The breed probably developed from crossing the tan-faced sheep of Dorset with a Merino-type breed.
  • By 1892 the breed was firmly established and the first Flock Book was published.
  • The breed was widely exported to Australasia, North American and South Africa and in Australia the breed became hugely important.
  • The Australians prefer polled sheep for ease of management and using Ryelands were able to develop a polled variety of the Dorset Horn, the Poll Dorset.
  • These were imported into the UK and soon became more popular than the original Dorset Horns.

Appearance

  • A stocky white faced sheep with a thick creamy fleece.
  • Ewes weigh around 75-85kg and rams, 120kg.
  • The sheep have a distinctive pink nose and both sexes are horned, rams with large, spiralled horns. 

Uses

Cross Breeding

Using a terminal sire on Dorset Horn ewes will produce a fast growing butcher’s lamb at any time of the year. The Dorset Horn ram can be used to produce crossbred ewes with the ability to lamb out of season as well as benefitting from the Dorset Horn’s other good traits; milkiness, maternal instinct, good growth rates.

Meat

The purebred Dorset Horn lamb can be killed from 10 weeks to give a 16-20+kg carcass. Purebred female lambs can run to fat at heavier weights so care must be taken when selecting lambs. When put to a good terminal sire, the Dorset Horn ewe produces fast growing lambs that grade well and will be ready to be sent off from 12 weeks old.

Wool

Staple length- 8-10cm. Fleece weight- 2.25- 3kg. Quality- 54s-58s.

Did you know?

The breed’s almost unique selling point is the ability to lamb at any time of the year. A common use is Christmas lambing to have lambs away in time for the lucrative Easter lamb trade. With appropriate management three lamb crops in two years is possible.

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