Watchlist; Category 4, At Risk.
The Wensleydale is a very large longwool sheep, one of the heaviest of our indigenous breeds. It is a dual-purpose sheep, developed in the early 19th century to provide fine wool, and quality mutton for a rapidly increasing urban population. It became popular as a crossing sire mated with blackfaced hill ewes to produce the productive Masham ewe.
The breed originated in the lower Wensleydale region of North Yorkshire. An outstanding ram named "Blue Cap" was the foundation sire and the breed is probably unique in that its society is able to not only identify a foundation sire, but also trace that ram's parentage, year and place of birth and breeder. "Blue Cap" was born in 1839 in the hamlet of East Appleton, five miles NNW of Bedale. He was sired by an outstanding Dishley Leicester ram out of a ewe of a local longwool breed known as Teeswater "Muggs". His unique qualities, which determined the breed type without any further infusion of Leicester blood, were his dark (blue) skin, superb quality of wool and size. He was weighed shortly before leaving for the 1841 Royal Show and recorded 448lbs (203kg), but nowadays 360lbs is an exceptional weight for a Wensleydale ram.
The wool is predominantly white, but there are a number of black pedigree lines. It is lustrous, falls in long-stapled ringlets, and is free from kemp owing to a characteristic known as central checking.
Find out more information by visiting www.wensleydale-sheep.com.