Leicester sheep originated from the border region of England and Scotland. They
are the lineal descendants of the Dishley Leicesters made famous by Robert
Bakewell of Dishley, Leicestershire (1726-95).
These improved Leicesters were first introduced into Northumberland by
the Culley brothers in 1767, and soon became the breed of choice in that area.
By 1850, the Northern breeders had evolved a type of sheep that was
different from the sheep found in the Southern areas. These northern-bred sheep had a longer body than the southern
animals, had a more developed brisket, and exhibited a more graceful neck and
to The Society of Border Leicester Sheep Breeders, there has long been a
question as to which of these two types of sheep was the true representative of
Bakewell’s famous Leicesters. While
this question is often discussed, it has yet to be settled.
Still, there is no doubt that both types “can claim a common origin and
that the differences are due to natural causes and not to the admixture of
extraneous blood, as has been frequently alleged but never supported by reliable
the literature published by The Society of Border Leicester Sheep Breeders of
the United Kingdom, the Border Leicester is valued most highly for his “use as
a Crossing Sire on the smaller and upland ewes.”
The characteristics he passes on to his progeny include: conformation,
prolificacy, hardiness, rapid growth rate, abundant milk production and devoted
mothering, and an improved fleece quality.
All of these traits make the Border Leicester sheep a superb candidate
for being a top producer of the best quality market lambs.
Leicester breed can now be found in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland,
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Spain, Portugal, Canada, U.S.A.,
Colombia, British Guiana, India, Japan, Yugoslavia, Iran, Hungary, Russia,
China, and Turkey. They are highly prized in these countries as a sire for
fat lamb production.
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in the United States, the Border Leicester is a favorite among handspinners for
their long-stapled and lustrous fleeces. It has been this demand for
spinning-quality wool that has kept the breed going strong in this country.