Watchlist; Category 2, Endangered.
The Leicester Longwool is a direct descendent of Robert Bakewell's Dishley Leicesters, which were developed during the latter part of the 18th Century. Bakewell's sought to change the old-fashioned sheep of the Midlands of England into an earlier-maturing type, with an aptitude to fatten, to satisfy the demands of the Industrial Revolution. Many sheep breeds, both in Britain and abroad, were developed with crosses of the Dishley Leicester.
The Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association formed in 1893, but the popularity of the breed fell during the mid-twentieth century, eventually reaching critical levels, when the wool could not compete with foreign imports, and mutton became unfashionable. Today its main commercial market is the production of heavyweight lambs or hoggets, and large sires for crossing purposes. It produces in excess of 5kg of long lustrous curly wool of medium staple used mainly for quality spinning.
The Leicester Longwool evolved during the twentieth century in the exposed environment of the Yorkshire Wolds, and has adapted to thrive in difficult conditions. It is a large breed with white face, dark nose and ears. There is a coloured strain that has black wool with black or brown markings on the face and legs.
Find out more at www.leicesterlongwoolsheepassociation.co.uk