Being over in Northern Ireland this week, staying on my Aunt & Uncle’s farm, I have decided to do some posts about rare breed animals. To start off the rare breeds, this post is about rare breed sheep here on my family farm – Black Leicester Longwool sheep.


Black Leicester Longwools are a rare breed of sheep, that are on the endangered list of the Rare Breed Survival Trust. This breed has an estimate of only 500 total ewes in the UK (so not including rams). They have a long, thick, heavy, but silky, fleece that produces luxurious wool once spun – it is popular for hand spinning as it keeps the silky feel better. The fleece at length looks like dreadlocks with tight curls, whilst appearing lighter in colour when shorn; having looser curls.

Shorn fleece

The Leicester Longwool breed was developed by Robert Bakewell in the 18th Century, and comes in two colours – black and white. The white has a white fleece, and white legs and faces; the black has a black/ grey fleece, sometimes with some brown in it, and black/ grey faces and legs. They have a lifespan of 14-16 years.

Friendly Ewes
Friendly Ewes

This breed is a large breed of sheep – ewes weighing in at 80-100kg and rams weighing in at 100-150kg. Neither ewes nor rams have horns, and are fairly docile; though they require firm handling due to their size, not their character. They produce lovely wool and tasty meat – and plenty of both with their size.

The Black Leicester Longwools are an ancient breed of sheep that seem to have been forgotten about over the years, resulting in their decline and the breed ending up as endangered. The breed is friendly and easily managed/ kept, so hopefully the breed will see an increase in number and get out of its endangered state.

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