Key Characteristics

As with other Welsh Mountain breeds the Balwen is very hardy and able to survive on sparse upland grazing and in harsh conditions. Like the Black and Badger Face varieties, the Balwen is more docile than the normal Welsh Mountain and can be easily bucket trained. A quick, agile sheep that requires firm handling once caught. Anecdotal evidence suggests resistance to footrot and few flystrike problems. Ewes are long lived and can still produce lambs at 10 years old. Lambing percentage of a flock run in a low input, upland system will be around 100% (meaning an average of 1 lamb per ewe). A flock run in a higher input, lowland system can lamb at up to 200% (meaning an average of 2 lambs per ewe) but this is exceptional. The breed has very few lambing difficulties with lambs born small and lively. 

  • The breed is black with its characteristic blaze from the top of the head to the nose, white socks and a white tail tip.
  • A small, slender sheep although not as thin looking as a primitive breed.
  • Rams are horned, ewes are polled.


  • The Balwen was originally developed in the Tywi Valley in central Wales and remained confined to the surrounding area for many years.
  • As with other colour variations of the Welsh Mountain they were useful as colour markers for farmers searching for their flocks.
  • As the area of coniferous plantation increased the numbers of the Balwen declined and by 1947 there was only one ram remaining.
  • Numbers have increased since then and a Breed Society was formed in 1985.
  • The breed has become widespread and much in demand as a smallholder’s sheep.


Purebred lambs produce a small carcass but require little in the way of additional feeding. A similar sized lamb to a Badger Face Welsh Mountain can be expected- 12-14kgs at 16 weeks of age. A larger, fast growing lamb can be achieved using a good terminal sire.

The ewe is an excellent, hardy mother and will lamb easily to a large terminal sire producing a meaty crossbred lamb. The Balwen ram can be used on commercial type ewe lambs as the lambs are small, lively and cause few difficulties to a first time mother.

Did you know?

The name Balwen means “white blaze” in Welsh. Balwen Welsh Mountain sheep have a very distinctive blaze from the top of the head to the nose. Traditionally, Welsh mountain farmers bred flocks with distinctive markings to make them easily identifiable and the Balwen is one example of this.  

Breed Societies

For more information about the breed visit the Balwen Sheep Society