Key Characteristics

The Border Leicester is renowned for its docility and good maternal qualities. Lambing percentages vary between 165-180%. The clean aquiline head, and not overheavy shoulders mean that the Border Leicester Ram can safely be used on the smallest ewes, e.g. the very successful Welsh Halfbred which is produced from one of our smallest hill ewes, the Welsh Mountain ewe.

  • A tall, large upstanding sheep, ewes weigh around 80-100kg and rams 120-145kg.
  • Animals have large erect ears and a roman nose.
  • Their striking appearance and elegant presence make them popular in the show ring.


  • The Border Leicester evolved from the Dishley Leicester, bred and made famous by Robert Bakewell of Dishley in Leicestershire.
  • Two distinct types of Dishley Leicester were developed in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.
  • The Border farmers preferred the hardier type and by about 1850 this variation of the Dishley Leicester became known as the Border Leicester (the other, darkfaced variant became known as the Bluefaced Leicester).
  • Pedigree flocks were originally kept under careful husbandry to provide rams for crossing with Blackface and Cheviot flocks and the first flockbook was published in 1898.


The breed has historically known as the ‘Great Improver’ owing to its ability to be crossed with any breed and improve the offspring. The Border Leicester is a very versatile crossing sire capable of producing both quality ewe lambs for breeding and prime wether lambs suitable for today's challenging market. It continues to be a popular crossing sire on hill ewes, such as the North Country Cheviot (producing the Scotch Halfbred); the Welsh Mountain (producing the Welsh Halfbred); the Blackface ewe (giving the Greyface). It is also used on a wide variety of breeds such as Suffolk, Texel crosses and Lleyn ewes.

Border Leicester crosses have won numerous live and carcase championships including repeated Breed Carcase championships at the Royal Welsh Winter fair, live Breed Championships at the Birmingham Winter fatstock and most recently at the Aberdeen Spring Fair.

The fleece of rams weighs 6-9kgs, ewes 4- 6kgs with a grade of 48/50 Bradford (29-32 microns) and is sought-after by handspinners for its natural lustre and ability to take dye. They confers this wool quality onto their half-bred offspring.

Breed Societies

For more information visit the Society of Border Leicester Sheep Breeders