Sheep Watchlist





At Risk










Castlemilk Moorit


Border Leicester

Black Welsh Mountain


Devon and Cornwall



Devon Closewool 



Leicester Longwool

Hill Radnor

Dorset Down


North Ronaldsay

Lincoln Longwool

Dorset Horn

Kerry Hill 


Manx Loaghtan

Greyface Dartmoor

    Whitefaced Woodland

Norfolk Horn

Llanwenog Ryeland


Oxford Down Shetland





Whiteface Dartmoor


South Wales Mountain
          Wiltshire Horn

Other native breeds: Badgerface Welsh, Beulah, Black Welsh Mountain, Blackface (Scottish), Bluefaced Leicester, Brecknock Hill, Cheviot, Clun Forest, Dalesbred, Derbyshire Gritstone, Exmoor Horn, Hampshire Down, Hebridean; Herdwick, Jacob, Kerry Hill, Llandovery Whiteface Hill, LLanwenog, Lleyn, Lonk, North Country Cheviot, Romney, Rough Fell, Ryeland, Shetland, Shropshire, Southdown, South Wales Mountain, Suffolk, Swaledale, Welsh Hill Speckled, Welsh Mountain, Wiltshire Horn

Britain probably has the largest range of native sheep breeds in the world. They are an integral part of our history and are descended from local types which successfully adapted to particular environmental and geographical conditions.While the diversity of native British sheep breeds owes much to the versatility of the species itself, it also derives from generations of careful shepherding and selection based on acute observations which long pre-date the scientific manipulations which are now taken for granted.

Many of our breeds have important connections. The Portland, for example, is the progenitor of the Dorset Horn, whilst almost all Longwool sheep in Britain (and many breeds abroad) trace a significant ancestry to the Leicester Longwool. The well-known and numerous Suffolk sheep of modern times would not exist without the Norfolk Horn sheep from which it was developed. Other breeds possess unique characteristics which may be of great value in research. The North Ronaldsay, with its striking physiological adaptation to a diet of seaweed has provided valuable information on protein utilisation and copper toxicity - illustrating most graphically how animals, largely unchanged for thousands of years, can play an important part in a modern world.

The first survey of British breeds in 1973, revealed that 'forgotten' breeds such as the Portland and Manx Loaghtan were rare. It was surprising, however, to find some Longwool and Down breeds in the same position. Both the Wensleydale and the Lincoln are commercially viable Longwool breeds with qualities which can make an important contribution to the modern sheep industry. Likewise, many of the Down breeds are proven sires of quality, naturally finished, lamb but they became marginalised in the clamour for a fast growing, uniform "product" and this gave dominance to just a handful of modern breeds.

Many native breeds have been free of artificial selection pressures and have evolved in small self-contained populations making them suitable for hybridisation - Manx Loaghtan ewes and other primitive breeds have shown good commercial qualities in crossbreeding systems while Whitefaced Woodland rams have been used on ewes of other hill breeds to achieve greater size and vigour in the progeny. Native sheep breeds are therefore well placed to contribute to the extensification and diversification now required of British farming and countryside management.