Key Characteristics

The breed is relatively hardy and able to cope with cold conditions. However in common with most longwools the breed is not best suited to prolonged wet periods. The breed can easily be bucket trained and will not jump fences. However firm handling is required due to the huge size of the sheep. Lambing percentage is generally around 150% and lambs are medium sized. Usually few lambing problems are experienced but lambs can be slow to get going.

  • A very tall, long legged breed with a characteristic long wool fleece. 
  • Ewes weigh around 80-100kg and rams, 100-150kg. 
  • Animals have woolless white faces and legs and both sexes are polled. 
  • There is also a black strain of the breed.


  • The Leicester Longwool is a hugely important breed in the history of livestock development. 
  • In the first half of the 18th century the longwool breeds of the midlands were large, slow growing with a poor carcase. 
  • Robert Bakewell took the example of the Leicester breed and by crossing it with the Lincoln and Ryeland breeds was able to create the new Leicester. 
  • Although the objective was breed improvement the new Leicester had several faults and never dominated the industry. 
  • In time the name of the breed was changed to the Leicester Longwool and the Breed Society was formed in 1893.


As with other longwool breeds the Leicester Longwool can be used in crossbreeding systems. Leicester Longwool rams can be used on commercial ewes to sire heavyweight lambs and hoggets for specific markets. The breed can be used on hill breeds to produce a halfbred ewe although other breeds such as the Teeswater are favoured because of higher prolificacy.

The wool is popular with hand spinners and well suited to direct marketing of woollen products. Staple length- 20-25cm. Fleece weight- 5- 7.5kg. Quality- 40s-46s. 

The purebred Leicester Longwool lamb can reach 18.9kg at 8 weeks old and will be ready for slaughter at 4-5 months to give a carcass of up to 20kg.

Did you know?

The breed played a large role in developing other breeds and the Wensleydale, Border Leicester, Lleyn and Ile de France are some examples of breeds with Leicester ancestry. 

Breed Societies

For more information visit the Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association