The breed is exceptionally hardy and able to survive on exposed uplands with little in the way of supplementary feeding. Anecdotal evidence suggests a level of resistance to flystrike and footrot. The breed can produce lambs at up to 10-12 years old. Depending on locations, lambing percentage varies with up to 170% in well managed lowland flocks. Lambs are small and lively with there are few lambing difficulties.
- The modern Whiteface Dartmoor is the descendant of the heath sheep that lived on Dartmoor in the 17th and 18th centuries.
- The breed was developed to thrive in the inhospitable conditions and up until the mid 20th century was very popular on both Dartmoor and Exmoor.
- The breed is still mostly found on Dartmoor but the Blackface is now the dominant sheep breed and the Whiteface has become rare.
- The Whiteface Dartmoor Sheep Breeders’ Association was formed in 1950 when the breed looked like it may become extinct.
- A medium sized hill breed, ewes weigh around 50-60kg and rams, 70-80kg.
- They have a characteristic white face and thick fleece.
- Rams have heavy, spiralled horns but ewes tend to be polled.
The Whiteface Dartmoor ewe will produce fast growing, well conformed lambs when put to a terminal sire and is an excellent mother. Crossing a longwool sire on a Whiteface Dartmoor produces a thrifty, maternal half bred capable of doing well on most lowland farms. The ram can be used on ewes of other hill breeds to add size and conformation without compromising on hardiness.
A purebred Whiteface Dartmoor lamb will reach around 18kg at 8 weeks old and the lamb can be ready for slaughter at 4-5 months old. Like many hill breeds the lambs can benefit from a period of fattening on lowland grazing to achieve the best meat yields. The lambs can be taken on to hogget age if a larger carcass is required.
Staple length- 15-20cm. Fleece weight- 5.5- 7kg. Quality- 36s-40s.
Did you know?
The breed is sometimes known as the Widecombe Whitefaces as the majority of the breed is concentrated on Dartmoor.
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.