Other name(s): English Leicester; Leicester Longwool; Bakewell Leicester; Dishley Leicester; Improved Leicester; New Leicester
Scientific name: Ovis aries
Country / Place of origin: England
History: English Leicester sheep are a breed which
were developed by Robert Bakewell in the English Midlands in the 1700's. The breed was developed to gain weight quickly and to be fast growing. The English Leicester has been used to improve many sheep breeds because of its meaty carcass and heavy fleece. It is one of the few sheep breeds that is considered to be "pure". The English Leicester is currently found in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and the US. Leicester Sheep are now one of Britain's rarest breeds, categorized as "endangered" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust because there are fewer than 500 registered breeding females in the United Kingdom.
Current Uses: Meat and fleece
Appearance: According to the Leicester Longwool Sheepbreeders’ Association, "The Leicester Longwool is a large, polled and attractive sheep. There are now two permitted colours, White and Black. The breed characteristics are the same for both colours; the only difference is that each colour has a separate “Flock Book”. The Black Leicester was admitted to registration in 1986. Since then they have become very popular with smaller breeders and those interested in wool.Mature rams can weigh 150 kg and a mature ewe up to 100kg. The high quality lustrous fleece, demonstrates evenness in length and diameter and has a Bradford count of 40-46 with a staple of around 40cm on an unshorn shearling, less on an adult sheep after re-growth from shearing. The length of staple does vary depending on the area that it lives in; sheep further north tend to have longer wool. The total weight on average is 12 – 18lb, but weights have been recorded up to 33 lbs. The head is bold and strong on a short thick neck. The crown is well covered with wool, and the face covered in white (black) hair. The ears are blue (on white sheep), fine and fairly long with occasional spots. The muzzle strong with even jaws, and nostril dark in colour. The body is deep and of considerable length with full flanks. The back is broad and level, the ribs being well sprung. The legs are of medium length with good bone, well set up on the pasterns on dark feet. The legs are covered in white (black) hair, the back legs usually being covered in wool."
Average weight: N/A
Lifespan: 10 - 20 years
Diet: Lambs start with their mother’s milk and a light diet of pasture grass at two weeks old. After weaning the lambs from ewe’s milk at six weeks old, they can start eating dry feed of grains (wheat, oats, barley, cottonseed, corn), soybean and peanut hulls, and hay. The main diet of sheep is fresh grass and other forage and pasture vegetation. The pasture must be fertile and large enough to support the grazing of sheep for about seven hours a day (morning and afternoon). Fresh water must be constantly available, especially during the warm months and if the diet is mostly dry hay. Supplements are recommended, and must be given in the middle of the day to balance the sheep’s food intake.
Housing: Sheep are grazing animals and do well living their entire lives outdoors. They get sufficient exercise and fresh air out in the field. They do need shelter from bad storms and unusually hot days. Many sheep keepers install field structures to provide shade, for example, hutches, domes, carports, and makeshift sheds. A common shade structure is a hoop house, like an open hangar or a greenhouse, which has a metal arched frame covered with tarp or other heavy-duty fabric.Some sheep owners keep their flock in a barn or similar enclosure to protect them from predators. These enclosures must have very good ventilation because moisture and poor air conditions lead to the sheep’s poor health. For warmth and comfort, bedding material should be provided. The best bedding is absorbent, clean, and dry. Some options are straw, wood shaving, sawdust, corncobs, dried corn stalks, peat, hemp, paper, and alfalfa hay. Preference is determined by cost, availability, convenience, and type of sheep. Wool sheep will not appreciate sawdust because it gets in their fleece. Paper is highly absorbent but difficult to manage in the field.
Health issues: One of the most common ailments among sheep is a viral skin disease called soremouth or “orf.” Ringworm or “club lamb fungus” is a rash also common among sheep. And much like “mad cow disease,” sheep can have a similar neurological ailment called “scrapie.” Sheep health issues should be addressed by a qualified veterinarian. Good health is promoted by sanitary habitat conditions and proper nutrition.
Behavior / Temperament / Activity level: They are a sound footed sheep which means they are acceptable on flat, hilly or more especially marginal country. They are large framed sheep with a wide even topline (back) a strong constitution and a good temperament.