Key Characteristics

The Cotswold is a hardy breed able to cope with harsh and hill conditions but thriving best on good meadows and pasture. The Cotswold can be easily trained to come to a bucket. Lambing percentage is generally 150-175%. Lambs are large but the breed has few lambing problems and lambs rise and suckle quickly. Ewes are very milky and excellent mothers.

  • A long, tall sheep with a very thick fleece.
  • Ewes weigh around 85-90kg and rams, 130kg.
  • The face and legs are woolless and generally white.
  • The breed has a well developed forelock to distinguish Cotswolds from other longwool breeds and to let the farmer buying the sheep know the quality of the wool.
  • Both sexes are polled.


  • The Cotswold probably originated from the sheep kept on large Roman estates.
  • By the Middle Ages the Cotswold Hills had become known as a centre of the English wool trade.
  • The Cotswold breed was improved during the 18th and 19th centuries using the Leicester and Lincoln breeds to add size to the Cotswold. 
  • The breed remained very popular throughout the 19th century and was widely exported.
  • As the wool market began to slow down the Cotswolds lost popularity and by the end of the First World War there were only a few flocks remaining.
  • By the mid 20th century there was just one large breeding flock and a handful of small flocks left but since then numbers have slowly built back up. There is a thriving Cotswold Sheep Society and numbers are growing.


The Cotswold was used in the development of the Oxford Down, Oldenburgh and Colbred breeds. In a crossing programme the Cotswold adds size and frame, increases wool yield and transmits its ability to grow and fatten on forage. Other longwool breeds can be preferred as crossing sires because of greater prolificacy but the Cotswold has been used on breeds such as the Cheviot, Welsh Mountain , North Country Mule and Suffolk and the halfbred ewes have been successful. A number of breeders have been very successful with heavy lamb production using the North Country Mule and Suffolk halfbreds. The Cotswold has also been used as a sire in commercial lamb production and has been found to perform well.

The Cotswold produces a heavy, lustrous fleece that is much in demand with hand spinners. With the breed’s history as a wool producer a direct marketing route for woollen products would seem a good option. Staple Length– 15-20cm. Fleece weight- 5.5- 10kg. Quality- 44s-48s.

Purebred Cotswold lambs are usually killed at around 4 months old and weigh 18-22kg deadweight. The breed is suitable for hogget and mutton production but care is needed to avoid them getting too fat. The meat is known for having a mild flavour and is much in demand. When crossed with a Down ram, the Cotswold ewe can produce a fast growing lamb that will grade well.

Did you know?

In the 15th century, it appears that early Cotswolds and their wool were largely exported, for in 1425 it was enacted by King Henry VI in order to remedy the date of things, ‘that no sheep shall be exported without the King’s license, ‘and there is no record of the King having been asked to grant a licence permitting the exportation of the wool of any other than that of the Cotswold sheep.

Breed Societies

For more information visit The Cotswold Sheep Society