Leicester Longwools

Dusk and Dana, our Leicester Longwool Sheep, joined the family in August. We already had two Suffolks, DSC02074gifts from a friend who had too many triplet March lambs. We bottle fed those sheep and they lived in our house for their first few weeks. This made them affectionate, like dogs. Our Leicesters are much sheepier. They are wary and hesitant to approach people– like regular sheep, they’re skittish. But they are lovely to watch graze– serene, and completely beautiful. Their fleece will reach 14 cm before they’re sheared in the summer, and their long locks stay separated, giving a sheep wearing it’s year-old fleece a distinctly Rastafarian look.

DSC02083 fleeceTheir long locks are a favorite of handspinners and dollmakers, who use the locks for hair.

We’ll sell some of our fleece in the summer, but hold back some for felting and doll-making. And in a year, when we acquire a Leisceter ram, we’ll cross-breed him with the Suffolks to improve their wool.

I chose Leicesters because they looked so iconically sheepy– their fleece looks like what a dream of a sheep looks like. But they’re also historically resonant. They are the first breed created using a contemporary understanding of genetics. In the eighteenth-century, they were  cutting edge science and wildly popular. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had large flocks of Leicesters. The breed eventually lost popularity in America, and died out, but was reintroduced in the 1980s by Colonial Williamsburg. We’re excited to be part of the small group of breeders working to preserve this wonderful breed.

Before being waylaid by the romance of, well, romance, children, and living in the mountains, I was on track to be a professor of eighteenth-century English literature, specializing in landscape. These were the exact right breed to scratch my academic itch! Now I live with the sheep I’d seen in landscape paintings, read about in travelogues, and imagined grazing in the distance, beyond the ha-has when I visited old estates.

For more information, please visit the our wonderful association website at http://www.leicesterlongwool.org/

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